Totally digging Angelique Heidler's gestural, abstracted paintings in which she utilizes found images -- thousands of which she has in her studio to choose between! We chat about her interest in opposing aesthetic forces, the benefit of artist residencies, and the importance of a close artistic community. More at the links afterward!
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First, can you introduce yourself? Where are you from, and where are you based now?
My name is Angelique Heidler, I'm 24 yo, and I was born in Paris and raised in a close suburb. It’s been a year now since I live here. The year before I was away in Tuscany, Panama and Tuscany again for various residencies, and a summer history of art class. 3 years before that, I was studying at the Slade for my BFA.
Can you remember the first moment you "discovered" art, either making or experiencing it?
I can't remember a specific moment I discovered art to be honest. I've always had "art plastique" lessons in my hometown, my gran's best friend was a teacher and would let us do anything with our hands, from painting to ceramics, papier-maché, etc. Actually now I remember I had a strong feeling when I first tried the dripping technique, I was approx. 6 yo and I came back home with a "pollock looking" sheet of A3 paper and my mom immediately showed me pictures of the real Pollock's. I remember deception, I thought I had created something new. But I realized what being a painter was I guess. Since then I never tried dripping anymore, too much child ego! Oh, I also remember being super impressed as a kid by these princesses my mom would draw me and by the ducks my dad would draw like a don (Donald Duck style). Also (sorry now that I'm writing everything comes back) I remember we had a sort of drawing competition for christmas at school. The student who would draw the best christmas tree would win something (can't remember the prize). Instead of drawing my own, I begged my babysitter or my cousin or someone older (this I can't remember) to draw a perfect one for me. I lost of course.
But funnily enough this is how I proceed sometimes, I ask children to draw stuff which I then re-use them in my paintings, I steal patterns and images, etc.
Anyway, I've always been allowed to draw on my walls since I can hold a pen. My child room is full of stupid sentences, drawings, caricatures of my old enemies, words from my first lovers, lyrics…
You earned a BFA from Slade School of Fine Art in 2015. How has your practice developed or changed since then?
Earning the BFA changed my practice in the sense that it gave me a kick; I thought, "Shit, now your studies are over, it's either you do a Masters, or you get in the business, but either way you should never stop producing." It made me more confident about taking big decisions or whether to go for residencies or not. I've always thought residencies could seem a little cheesy and a cliché, of the lonely artist facing their demons, alone in the middle of nowhere, thousands of kilometers away from home. But at some point you gotta try out. I did and realized it's much more than what I subjectively thought; you make significantly different works depending where you produce it.
At the Slade I felt like I spent my two first years wondering what to do. I was in the Undergrad Media program and kept wondering what to work on -- everything felt like it had to be justified. I didn't feel free enough. Until I had a chat, which made me realize I should move to Undergrad Painting where I could be a bit wilder, and where my technique would be a tool more than an idea. It worked.
Since my graduation, the aesthetic remains pretty much the same but I am more satisfied by the most simple and lighter compositions. I try to structure my series a bit more, and my confidence builds up.
Your artist statement describes your work as a form of play: "Colourful yet dark, my paintings approach fetishism symbols, celebrities, cartoons and imaginary characters, with a cynical lightness and friendly provocation." Can you tell me some more about your work?
My work is my desire to say stuff about society without the need of investigating too much. That's why it's ironic and energetic, it has a sort of nonchalant gesture, and the subject matter is treated in the same way. The themes I evoke are mostly the women as object, death, minorities, fanaticism; all of these are translated in picture. I also like to use opposed pictures, like a beautiful flower and a dead fœtus. I collect these images because when I see them, they wake up something in my mind. However, on the canvas they don't always have to make sense. I use them as I would use a color on a brush.
What is your process like? Do you do any research before starting? Do you plan pieces before beginning them?
I never research too much before painting. I gather a few images I found in newspapers or on the internet, and I start working on the background layer. If I'm happy with it, I start wondering where to stick the images, fabrics etc. I add little by little or paint over some bits. If I'm not satisfied I can go crazy frustrated and destroy what I've established, but that's ok because I know I will come up with something new at some point, which will content me. I try to get everything off my head while I paint, not to think of anything but the present movement, and most importantly, not to judge what I'm doing. So technically I try to watch the end of my brush and not the overall of the traces I've just made. I often change my mind about the images I'm going to glue on the canvas; I have hundreds of them everywhere in the studio, in order be able to get a sort of crush on one of them, if I'm looking around the studio looking for something missing. If that makes sense.
What is your studio like?
My studio is very small but I love it. At first it was painted black all over, which I quite liked but then, as I am a disorganized worker, I couldn’t quite see through my mess in this black box. I painted all white and now with the sun coming in, it feels like heaven; one side of the studio is huge window doors facing trees. There are over 20 other artists working in the building, which becomes very important when you’re not at school anymore. Getting valuable advice on works in progress is precious! It’s also quite handy if I have a technical issue, as there's always someone to help.
What do you think is the most challenging or daunting part of pursuing an artistic practice, whether creatively or professionally? What do you do to get through it?
The most challenging part would be to stick to your interpretation of the world, the art world, and try not to sink into trends. Which is very hard when you follow art blogs, Instagram, etc. Most daunting I guess is getting negative answers to prizes, residencies, open calls. You have to sometimes lie to yourself to keep your confidence at it's best. When I'm down I convince myself that I'll be a successful artist, and I list all the good things that happened to me as a painter. Comparing yourself to others can also be a good help. Competition can bring you down, but can also be a very good boost.
What is the best advice you've received?
Don't go to a strangers house even if he's got candy? I don't know
All advice is good to take, and if one isn't, well, it makes you learn.
If you could meet anyone for coffee or a drink, and talk about anything, who would it be and what would you want to chat about?
Snoop Dogg, Marylin Manson and Polke. Discuss deep feelings and the wonder of life, subject matter in one's practice and successful rebellion.
What do you want to learn more about, or challenge yourself to master, in regard to your practice?
I'd love to learn more about German painting in art history, and maybe learn very technical skills. I don't think you need to "master" anything in life; a good knowledge in many different areas is enough to me, otherwise I think you become a boring pessimistic and depressed erudite because you already know everything. Mystery is cooler, it leads to imagination. I had an uncle like this, he knew everything about Spinoza so the dude was quite a thinker, but man how depressed he was! Anti social and everything. Curiosity is the key to quality. Ahahahah
What do you need most, or value most, as an artist?
Culture! Open-mindedness and curiosity
What are you working on right now?
I keep an ongoing series of paintings which are always on relation with current events, aside specific projects. The one I'm working on at the moment and since January, are my Allegories; they consist on a panel board of cork and white board with a wooden frame and splitting the two parts. I use my little images and fabrics, found flyers and pins. I also paint on them. The frames are covered in enameled ceramic bricks. I also would like to start a painting series about the world of soccer because I think it illustrates society pretty well. Otherwise I'm planning to co-curate a show of 2 to 4 artists with a artist friend, our works included. The group show I was part of at Supplement has just been taken down so probably after summer, in Paris.
Anything else you would like to add?
My answers are already way too long! Thanks for the interest, ciaoooooo <3
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