The Chocolate Grinder
Painting has become both central (due to markets and fortunes) and marginal in the field of
She lacks visibility in the “grand curator” biennales and exhibitions. Yet she is present, in
countless studios and galleries, often impossibly dreadful, always playing tricks, rarely surprising.
When she displays herself majestically before us, with assurance, with the pretension to pick
up where the Renaissance had convinced her of perfection and signified the absolute, she reinvents
once again the only question that can possibly be: what action
to set in motion…
Not what content, not what method, not with which signs, not with which pose, not with what
idea... but how to decide the act of painting here and now, after the mess, the History and the
odious memories of masterful compositions.
For this book, Charline von Heyl has assembled paintings made on the old and the new
continent: in Germany at the beginning of the 1990s and in New York since 1996.
To find a place in a painting scene principally tied up in deconstructionist questions with
painting itself was not the least of her challenges. Somewhere in between several recent
histories of the 1980s – the Neue Wilde had mildly spoiled the territory and their immediate
successors, the absurd ironists Kippenberger
, as well as the non-practising
iconoclast Michael Krebber – Charline von Heyl's paintings lock onto success, avoiding direct
quotations or over considered compositions, in favour of a bold assemblage with hints of
figurative, decorative and/or just materials.
Moving to New York in the middle of the 1990s... she is fully aware that the matter (of
painting) would have to be couched in the midst of the vestiges of another abstraction – the
Painting is neither asceticism nor spectacle; it requires gestures and techniques and feeds
off recipes and creativity even though listening to painters' jargon about the complexities of
varnish and transparencies is an ordeal.
Charline von Heyl's painting never has time to become a cliché, since she has learnt to be
where she could never go even if she really wanted to. Should she want to, she wouldn't be
able to. She claims to want to make newness with newness since she can't enter the memory
of the brush – which, like water, is shamanic and full of energy.
The tension she conjures up requires so much attention and spontaneity that she would not be
able to follow a simple method or apply readymade recipes. In any case, she announces this
intention which isn't devoid of courage or grandeur. She will pursue the difficult route of tackling
a new history every day.
Time is in her favour: it simplifies her project, suggesting she gives the best of herself
constantly; preventing her from the routine of a programme to follow that would become weighty and tedious; giving her History as pasture, to pick at without pretending; handing over the
burning freedom to say: « hang on, wait a second, I know all this, but I am going right there...
where everyone has already been, but I will be the first anyway... »
The book of lined up paintings, spread just about chronologically, is the first to really hold
forth since it observes the paintings from a dual point of view: the rather objective colour
reproduction with margins vis-à-vis the more determining and selective extract (far more than a
detail) which is magnified, in black and white, and manipulated by the artist revealing the graphic
structure of the paintings.
What happens when colours fall off the next page and a large starkly black and white surface
only reveals a perfectly cropped extract? Suddendly the paintings are stripped to the bones, in uncomfortable close-ups, they unveil their
structure. This becomes inevitably graphic but as it is followed through systematically throughout
the entire body of work, it creates a syntax.
Her limited edition artists' book Sabotage (1)
already explored similar processes, toying with
zooms, symmetries, superimpositions... – which highlights the process without removing the
pleasure of the face to face confrontation with the actual painting.
1. Sabotage, 2008. Fold out artist's book with transparent paper in a slipcase. Christophe Daviet-Thery Editions
and XN Editions, Paris,
2008. 100 numbered and signed copies.
Here lies a hint of (constructive and creative) nostalgia for the volumes published by Editions Zodiaque and set in letterpress by
Benedictine monks at La Pierre-qui-vire in the Morvan specialising in part in Romanesque art so rich in deep and thick blacks… alongside the memory of other books: Vasarely
's Complete Works in 4 tomes (each a different format) by Editions du Griffon