‘[A painting] is, in fact, only finished when it is a different painting to different people – when it changes every time you look at it’
—C. VON HEYL
‘I stumble over something and then I explore that. I push things so that I will stumble into something new. I push things to the point where I have no idea what’s going to happen’
—C. VON HEYL
Bursting with cerebral and visceral energy, Charline von Heyl’s paintings embody her freewheeling spirit, standing as continual investigations into the possibilities of painting as a pure visual language. Throughout her career she has set about creating images from within, slowly deconstructing the process of image-making and deliberately disregarding any sense of a linear stylistic development or evolution. In Untitled (pink) subtle washes of pink and intense flashes of emerald green swirl across the canvas, merging with the intricate lines beneath, such that they appear to have been applied in an almost illustrative or print-like way. Detaching colour from the background, the present work explores what happens when the artist isolates the different elements in constructing a painting, including line, form and colour.
Despite their seeming spontaneity, von Heyl’s canvases are in fact the result of an intensive painterly process where layered brushstrokes and swathes of colour create unexpected collisions and simultaneous moments of conflict or harmony. The dynamism of each of her works is maintained by the wide array of source material, from artist monographs to magazine clippings, that fills her studio. Referencing the unfinished Mnemosyne Atlas, an attempt to map the pathway of art history and image-making in a non-linear way, von Heyl’s source material for any given painting is deliberately wide ranging, dancing through history and iconography. Citing sources that include handmade raffia grass Kuba cloths, Lubok woodcuts from the 17th and 18th century and classical mythology, von Heyl works from a ‘ferocious input of images’. These visual stimuli, both in her mind and her studio itself, do not act as direct sources for her work, but rather inform what she describes as a dynamic relationship between her paintings and her surroundings, where each may prompt a new interpretation of the other. In this way von Heyl’s pursuit of abstraction is driven by a desire to invent something that has not yet been seen, creating works that possess a powerful and poetic autonomous reality. ‘It feels like an invention of images that don’t exist yet’, she explains, ‘but it never feels abstract’ (C. von Heyl, Hammer Lecture: UCLA Department of Art Lectures, 2011, https://vimeo. com/92310676p [accessed 10 September 2016]).