M HKA, Antwerpen
19 February 2016 - 29 May 2016
Kati Heck (b. 1979, Düsseldorf) uses a greatly diverse visual vocabulary to give artistic expression to the world as she experiences and perceives it. By combining a variety of styles on a single canvas, Heck’s paintings often have something of the collage about them. Often with a humorous bent, her hyperrealistic images seamlessly overflow in sketches and stylistic references to art history. From out of her interest in ‘the everyday’, Heck mainly finds inspiration from her own life experience, and refers to popular culture with nods to comic strips, films and pornography. Her purpose is not to provide easy solutions to crack the codes of her presentations. Premium is placed on the imaginative power of the work. “The more I tell, the more the viewer’s eye is ‘directed’ and the less he or she can see.”
In many of her self-portraits, Kati Heck presents the viewer with a serious look. In this regard Frau Heck, jetzt mal im Ernst comprises, as the title intimates, no exception. With swollen eyes and a look tinged with regret, the artist holds a tiny, finely adorned coffin in her hands. Just the perfect size for the little bird perched on her shoulder. Below, a cavalcade of figures and animals pierce the melancholic atmosphere. The idea for Zum Teufel, Positionen! came to Heck in a dream. In this self-portrait she seems as hypnotized, staring apparently absently before her. The figurative painter, in the likeness of Heck herself, tries to make peace with the conceptual artist. Der herrliche Selbstbetrug concerns painting’s limitations in terms of one’s learning about oneself from this exercise. In Fig.5 - Pfuiti Bergauf Heck leans back lazily. A fierce-eyed bird drinks coffee and oversees the artist's to-do list.
From out of the necessity for action and debate, in 2012 Kati Heck founded the Babydetektivclub in order to bring together all those who she admires. And, because you can look up to the departed as well as to the living, a letter offering membership was also sent off to Herman Hesse!“To hell with all definitive ideologies! The shy, yes almost shameful ignorance is my hot spring, my deception. The sensical and the non-sensical. I came to the decision, that it is high time to open the Babydetektivclub for once and for all! Expect the unexpected, for this is no traditional club. Fear not – let us do what has to be done! NOTHING IS CERTAIN!” declares the Babydetektivclubmanisfesto. Various works refer to the club: from the photograph Babydetektiv mit Sekretärin to the graphic works Aus dem Tagebuch eines Babydetektivs, from the installation Babydetektivbüro to the film Der springende Punkt.
A new installation of cloth dolls represents the artist and the artist’s muse. Another life-sized installation titled Neue Freunde (The Band) consists of a guitar-playing brown bear, a drumming turkey and a marionette on the keyboard. The rock group Nuevos Amigos (as we can read on the drum kit) amazes the public with a performance that is as absurd as it is melancholic. The threatening Piece is one of the many pigeons that inhabit Heck’s work. Other animals too (sometimes in a slightly tipsy state, e.g. Tier mit Bier) pass in review.
For group portraits Kati Heck often uses her own family and friends as subjects. In the near-theatrical setting of her studio, she has the models (usually appointed with bizarre costumes and accoutrements) pose for the camera. These images are subsequently worked into paintings that also often bear absurd words or phrases. Usually the presented figures aren’t doing anything, nothing happens, and they even appear seemingly unaware of each other’s presence. Muse kommt flöten... (saftiger Freund Pegasus) is based on the 17th-century painting Pegasus by Jacob Jordaens. Pegasus now has in part acquired human form. Against a storm-ridden background, six ecstatic personages complete the canvas, one of whom literally takes root in the foreground.
For her portraits, as well, Kati Heck calls on persons from her own circle. In this connection, Heck has a particular fascination for older men and the intriguing stories they tell, what they’ve been through. The heroic tales that she gets to hear about Leon – grandfather of gallerist Tim Van Laere – inspires her to include him as subject. In her painting O Leon, he stares with wise calm into the distance. Her protagonists are portrayed with an enormous feeling for detail, with backgrounds rather abstract and with some components even sculpted, as in Hopfen, Malz, Hermann erhalt’s.
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Babydetektiv mit Sekretärin
Kati Heck, Babydetektiv mit Sekretärin, 2012. Print, lamdaprint, 129 x 106 cm.
Kati Heck, Zu Befehl, 2014. Painting, ink, gouache, watercolour, pencil, letterset letters on paper, artist frame, 54 x 37 cm .