I sit in Jay Rechsteiner’s lounge on what is the weekend of the Frieze Art Fair and I can’t help feeling thankful for
it. As some forty thousand art lovers, strays, buyers, pretenders and tourists methodically pulse through the
plethora of rooms beneath the vast tent on Regents Park, Rechsteiner reclines on his sofa with a cup of tea in one
hand and a casual air of indifference in the other. It is in fact Sunday afternoon but it could be Tuesday morning,
Friday night. I don’t think it would make a bit of difference.
Despite the hangover, Rechsteiner comes across with an air of affability, and I soon assume his same relaxed, laid-
back pose. There is in his face, an almost boyish energy that persuasively intrigues and hints at something
romantic; an assurance that who he is, is who he wants to be.
Rechsteiner is first and foremost a painter. His images are multi-layered and acutely urban in their ideology. His
most recent work, a series called East London, amalgamates predominantly urban references, often culminating in
an acute visualisation of struggle. While he flaunts with film, video performance and installation, painting is quite
clearly the medium with which he feels most satiated. His motive is inspiringly cathartic. “I paint so as not to get a
headache. If I don’t paint for a length of time, I feel it physically, detrimentally. It actually hurts.”
The ascendance of contemporary art into a much more publicly accessible arena has invariably led to
denouncements of challenging projects epitomised by such events as the Turner Prize. Consensus and opinion
has sadly closed one eye to the art itself, preferring instead a steady tirade on the huge sums being paid for
contemporary work. Clearly, art is big business.
“Contemporary art has to a degree, lost some focus.” Rechsteiner says. “Now it’s about being famous or how
much you can sell your work for. As an artist you are free to choose another path, away from consumerism. I don’t
prostitute myself. I would be in PR if I wanted to do that. For me, it is about painting, painting, painting. Sure, it is
great to sell work but the transaction is the aftertaste. That’s not why I do it.”
In his East London paintings, Rechsteiner combines harsh images of the every day with broken words and torn-off
fly posters, an effect that maintains a visible sense of inertia and reference to place and gritty reality. Family Plan
epitomises this edgy juxtaposition, with the central image of a bare-chested, blonde figure, resting uneasily with
the darkly suggestive print of a digitalised revolver. The girl’s body is consumed from the waste down by a
pastiche of torn, emboldened typography, pervading a subversive sense of encounter.
It is perhaps this facet of Rechsteiner that is most visible in the saturated hews of his paintings. His colour-
drenched canvasses fill your eyes, leaving the peripheral dragging its knuckles somewhere. The sheer volume of
disjointed images and urban- faced pastiches somehow emancipates the viewer from any fruitless desire to look
further and discover or solve hidden meanings. It is simply the viewing that counts here. Rechsteiner’s work
gives you a second chance; it shouts to you what you would have otherwise, on any other day, overlooked.