Stefanie Heinze creates hallucinatory artworks, featuring clumsy figures that bleed into one another to depict strange unrealities. Using fleshy brushstrokes, she transforms her preliminary sketches in ink and pastel into colourful, playful paintings, in which bodies merge with both objects and themselves. She reinterprets mistakes as part of the painting, and draws inspiration from sense-defying cartoons, as figures are depicted in various states of activity; eating, resting, and leaping across the canvas.
Stefanie lives and works in Berlin, and her first solo exhibition, entitled ‘Genuflect Softly #1’, is on display at the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery until April 22nd. The exhibition displays her colourful, large-scale paintings, which defy logic and convention through the construction of new shapes and motions, causing reason to degenerate into what she likes to call ‘newsense’. Twin speaks to Stefanie about her distinctive artistic process, deconstructing gender roles, and transformation.
You have said that painting is your favourite medium, because it can ‘flesh out contradictions’. What do you mean by that?
For me, image making is about impossibilities. Figures can sit and float at the same time. Body parts, domestic objects, make up and foodstuffs bleed into one another in hallucinatory scenes. The figures become their environment and the consumable products that we surround ourselves with ooze until they’re a tangled mass of abstraction. I’m the one that creates that imagery but I sometimes feel their anarchy taking over.
Your work is always centered around the theme of transformation. How does this influence you, and how do you represent transformation through painting?
Transformation and morphing are often depicted in cartoons and animated films and I draw a lot of inspiration from this. Betty Bop and Looney Tunes characters morph on screen with or without their knowledge. Characters do impressions of others and transform not only their voice, but also their body into that person; Donald Duck switches effortlessly between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Evolution, opposites, and rivals are at play; toys, rocks, animals, and musical instruments are just as lively as people. I am interested in this imaging of transformation, less for its entertainment quality and more as a crucial reflection on the persuasive influences on our personhood, environment, and culture. I try to keep this sensation of perpetual movement very present in my work.
How do you use your work to deconstruct gender roles?
I am always eager to deconstruct gender roles in a playful and evocative way. Gender and class can be deliberated through depictions of skateboards, high heels or cigarettes. These objects may be pictured at the point of collapse, comparable to the way in which normative constructions of gender or predeterminations around class are distorted depending on your standpoint. This instability recalls queer theory’s promise of difference, variability, and transition. The vagueness of figures, objects and their interactions underline a moment of empathy.
Can you tell us a little about your artistic process?
I like to harness clumsiness in my painting as a tool. I am interested in how objects, environments, and figures can signal a social status or identity and how the rebellious mass of oil paint can change that as well. Domesticating it in thick or thin layers, scraping paint out, I play with color connotations.
What do you hope that people take away from your work?
I hope people don’t take a certain moral message from it. I prefer them to question meaning in general in a very enjoyable way. I see the works as conversation pieces that should create “newsense”.
Stefanie Heinze’s first solo exhibition ‘Genuflect Softly #1’ is on at the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery until the 22nd of April.