Charline von Heyl is a contemporary German painter born in 1960. Her development as an artist was contextually situated in a period dominated by figural painting. She also encountered the response – a very male dominated discourse that took an ironic, critical stance against these late modernist trends. Of course, that environment has greatly impacted her work. Instead making paintings that are either “nostalgic for modernism or satisfied with reiterating painting’s death” she endeavors to create an image that has “not yet been seen and cannot be named.”
Von Heyl’s work is also nonlinear: perhaps as a response to late modernism’s tendency towards serial production and consistency. Each painting is distinct from the last; it has even been described as anti-institutional in the way that she resists making a signature product or developing a “branding.”
Her work is both disorienting and consuming; the paintings have a kind of endless depth. Using a wide variety of materials to create intense colors and contradicting shapes, she successfully manipulates the viewer’s perception of space. She her “almost-identifiable” forms seem to refuse to be still. And, certainly, there is a simultaneous experience of attraction and repulsion that one gets from these undulating, multi-layered images. Her work is certainly something you can get lost in.
For me, her most successful work is Igitur (2008). It seems as though she has exposed inside of something, and it is both intimate and beautiful. In this work, she is perhaps responding to our patriarchal society’s favoring of a controlled outward appearance. As opposed to self-restraint or censorship, she uncovers what appear to be the inside of this bizarre, unrecognizable figure. Her use of symbols and signs without direct reference has also been identified as a “risky and distinctly feminine act”. Of course, it is because of this interpretation (and the gorgeous colors) that makes this work particularly exciting for me.
I would love to see these paintings even larger-- mural size. In the way that they create a kind of all-consuming and spatially confusing experience, I think these paintings could really do something extraordinary when situated in a real space. Working on existing architecture could enhance her already fascinating play with our perceptions of dimensions.