Charline von Heyl

Galerie Borgmann • Nathusius

Charline von Heyl’s new works are difficult to categorize: neither abstract nor objective, neither symbolic nor narrative, they seem to take something from every genre. They also differ markedly from her earlier works, seeming to take pleasure in the act of painting itself. It has become almost sacrilegious to speak of pleasure in relation to painting. The correct stance is, of course, to doubt painting, to question, criticize, reject, yet to go on painting, expressing this uneasy relationship to the medium in the pictures themselves. This was the path followed by von Heyl and some of her fellow painters, Albert Oehlen among them. After many years of struggling with the question of the viability of painting, she slowly became convinced that it is entirely legitimate to paint pictures that reflect an absolute confidence in the medium.

But what does such painting look like? In one of von Heyl’s large pictures we can see a woman bending over to one side. Standing with legs apart in the center of the picture, an apron over her dress, her head covered with a summer hat, she seems to be gathering something from the ground. But her body is divided in two; out of her back a leg abruptly rises, clad in a fishnet stocking and a shoe. Beneath the leg looms a female torso, while a fish hovers in the air; what’s more, we can make out a single fin. None of this, however, ever resolves into any kind of narrative.

Von Heyl works on an associative, allusive level. For years painters have sought to banish unfathomable images from the picture plane. The medium of painting was to speak solely through and of pure color and form. Von Heyl has moved beyond such notions. She mines our conscious and unconscious repertoire of images, enriching them with references at the level of form as well as content. The boundary in her pictures between the real and the surreal is fluid, offering the viewer a space in which to dream.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by David Jacobson.