Few artists possess the sort of free-ranging, exploratory style and vocabulary that seems to mark the output of artist Charline von Heyl. The German-born painter’s work is relentlessly committed to the canvas as a space for both formal reinvention and ongoing investigation. Moving through a new selection of works this fall at Petzel Gallery, von Heyl returns to this mode, presenting a series of new compositions that marks her continued interest in texture and space as formative modes of the painter’s internal language.
Von Heyl’s new paintings work against concrete language, a sort of fluid, expressive interpretation of signs and symbols that twists vaguely familiar structures and systems into new arrangements, as if the artist was perhaps incorporating a selection of both natural iconographies and historical references in how these images have been expressed or depicted in the past. Time, as a result, seems to go on view in multiple ways simultaneously, capturing its machinations through dense compositions replete with moody rhythms of color and shape.
As a result, perception becomes both target and tool for von Heyl, presenting bodies and shapes as a way to understand and explore how the viewer relates and understands her juxtapositions. Simple adjustments of the viewer’s relationship to the image, or their movement around the work brings out new languages and understandings. In some cases, paint may bleed through the linen, while elsewhere, shapes are imprisoned under a layer of color as ghost images. Some works, devoid of color, are able to re-energize through stark black graphics. A painting can often begin with a meandering line that loops and snaps into a checkerboard. Hers are as much explorations of the line as expression and understanding, interested in how the viewer moves across the canvas as much as how her own hand does. These sequences unfold slowly while the painting is viewed—overlapping, dissolving, or blending to produce an image that stands for itself as fact.
In this way, one can understand von Heyl’s work as one invested in the viewer’s understanding of space as shared. Rather than imposing her craft and construction on the viewer’s senses, these works are environments in their own right, open to exploreation and interpretation, as if one’s eyes were allowed to wander, and play, across their varied surfaces.
The artist’s work is on view through October 20th.
— C. Reinhart
Charline von Heyl [Petzel]