Katrin Heichel:
Heim. Ich gehe jetzt. / Home. I’m going now.
8 September—13 October 2018

Es wird hell / It is becoming bright
Draussen ist feindlich / It’s hostile out
Schliess dich ein mit mir / Lock yourself in with me
Hier sind wir sicher / We are safe here
Ich liebe Dich / I love you
Vergiss es / Forget it

Blixa Bargeld, Einstürzende Neubauten, Kollaps / Collapse LP, 1981

Katrin Heichel creates spaces. A six-line snippet of prose from song lyrics sums up the painting and installation in this exhibition: A refuge built of words and wishes and manifested as a profession, only to be torn down again at the last minute, and to move on from place to place, person to person, through the phases of life, changing experiences and new needs.

Heichel’s human dwellings are a highly temporary affair and the opposite of a dogmatic homeland. Between practical house hunting, discreet romantic retreats and essential shelter, Heichel creates large-format illusions of spaces [oil on canvas]. In an intelligently differentiated atmosphere, she seeks forms of comfort, while also highlighting the hermetic nature of these quarters, right up to the extreme of an ambush.

The contradictory motions of arrival and departure in the title »Home. I’m going now« refers to people, but the protagonists are never present, we only see what they leave behind. Heichel creates the still lives behind the people, which give spaces an ambivalent yearning, and turn their inventory into a milieu.

From a distance, »Home II [Topping-out Ceremony]« appears to depict an enticing idyll against the backdrop of a deep blue sky. Up close, it reveals a disused bird box, broken, with open sides, wooden boards smeared with paint, bright red pennant and conspicuous colourful topping out wreath. The half boarded-up entrance hole becomes a Kafka-esque trap.

»It’s hostile outside« gives us a glimpse into a child’s blanket fort made from a rope hung between the slatted frame, ladder and wall, covered with blankets and sheets, and with pillows and bed covers as outward-facing barricades and inward nesting materials, while »Caravan« shows an opulently padded refuge with the added benefit of mobility.

Every interior is like an interview with the viewer, asking them whether they feel more jealousy or pity, like or feel alienated by it, and is reminiscent of the human primeval instinct to hide. Heichel is complicit with the observer and shows largely friendly refuges, in bright, strong, warm colours, summery patterns and welcoming us with open arms—while also warning of deception.

One of the recurring features of the works is also one of Heichel’s leitmotifs; the wooden ladder forms a self-reflective element among the objects depicted. Ascent and descent, entrance and exit, being inside or outside, at the top or the bottom—poetologically, Heichel’s ladders are not just supporting structures in the depicted world, they support her ideas and serve as metaphors for their adoption.

The elements of the extensive installation »I’m going now« appear trivial: A chair, table and bed with clear signs of use in a studio, and stacked little canvases with leftover paint, along with a bucket of used-up items—the sediment of everyday life as an artist. In the midst of these items leans a meaningful ladder—gilded and fit for worship, like something in a shrine. Perhaps it symbolises the centrifugal forces that push successful contemporary lives off track and make people think of escape.
Thus, the entire production can hardly object to being interpreted as a portrait, a shell of a room, like after skinning, left behind like a discarded item of clothing, an outlived home. The indicative »I’m going now« has already faded away now.

The installation and large-format oil paintings on canvas, are balanced by a series of small formats, which have loosely accompanied the panel paintings since 2014. In a wonderful juxtaposition of meticulous precision, extensive and pasty abstraction, Heichel has created a series of thistles. The »BB«—the bad flowers—aggressive survivors with a great adaptive potential, often displaced and then settling permanently, where others barely survive, are the first in the desert and the last in the mountains. More talented than almost any other creature at finding a home, they are the existentialists in the show: thrown into an existence by the vagaries of time, place and circumstances, for better or worse.

In terms of life, this failure and the logical correction is a positive. Heichel integrated that in her work as a constituting element and begins a long-term study of her work in this exhibition:
Failure – Phase I

The starting point is the »Failure [Connection]« piece from 2013. Heichel has refined it, rotating the vertical painting [210 x 300 cm, oil and egg tempera on canvas], an impenetrable pyramid of boards, like a pyre, to a horizontal format, calling it »Failure [Home III]« and painted over it to create a hovel with a blue couch as a temporary abode. Like a raised hide, with the potential to be either a shelter or a trap, wooden ladders come into play again bringing with them a euphemistic perspective on the future, departure and desire.

The work will be revised from now on at 5-year intervals, and adapted respectively to the work phase and topic—a pictorial concept work—a life’s work.

It will change more or less, in particular it will continue the combination of »destructive doubts« and »affirmative strength« that marks Heichel’s work in a special way.
Observing and affirming herself in this way coram publico is not for every artist and requires anticipated life-long upheaval and new beginnings. Admitting that in advance and showing it intentionally takes strength. Heichel knows what she’s getting into; »Painting is not nice ... it can consume your entire life«.
—By Tina Simon /Translated by Brendan Bleheen
Dr. phil. Tina Simon

Author and publicist, Leipzig

Katrin Heichel_ * 1972 in Leipzig, lives and works in Leipzig and Catania/Sicily, IT_2000 studies painting/graphics at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig_2002–2005 studies painting/graphics with Arno Rink, HGB in Leipzig, diploma_2005–2008 masterclass at Neo Rauch, Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig_2008 Meisterschülerabschluss_2007 Master Scholarship of the Free State of Saxony_2011 The International Studio and Curatorial Program New York City of the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony_2014 Residence scholarship of the Beijing XZCH Cultural Development Co., Ltd./China. Numerous exhibitions in Europe, exhibitions in China and America. She is also represented in well-known public and private collections.
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