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HARZ By Alexander Heaton
28.03.2009 19.00-21.00 Uhr & 29-30.03.2009 17.00-19.00 Uhr
CLARKE GALLERY Friedelstrasse 52 12047 Berlin
+49 (0)176 8716 2833 clarkegallery@gmail.com

“Close your bodily eye so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye. Then bring to the light of day that which you have seen in the darkness so that it may react upon others from the outside inwards.”
- Caspar David Friedrich – Advice to Artists, 1830

It is the sinister elements of these paintings that draw me to them. Elements that are not necessarily visible to start with. The slow shift in seeing, from the obvious brightly lit elements, to those that lie beneath, or beyond. Idealised landscapes – awesome in their colouring, over the top in their lighting, theatrical in their composition, miniscule in their detail – contain, at second glance, something darker, murkier. Out of a foggy forest scene (beautiful, serene, demonstrating an unabashed use of symmetry and an excellent use of chromatic perspective) emerge two figures. One is in a dirndl, the other in 1950s dress. Despite coming from two different eras, they collude, lurking in the shadows on either side of the canvas, fading into, or out of, the forest. Their transparency suggests transience. But the visibility of their transience in turn suggests a kind of permanence: layers of history. These characters were here before us, and will probably still be here in generations to come. Whether they are friends or foe is left to us to decide - but their presence reminds us that the forest is not only ours alone. We must share it. And we are reminded too, that this landscape exists in and belongs not only to the present but to other eras as well. The freeing of the imagination that comes with the experience of lofty heights, physical exertion, mountain air, with being away from the normality of everyday life, leads to fantasy. And the boundaries between reality and fantasy in this kind of environment can be thrillingly thin. In the words of Rilke: “Beauty is nothing but the beginning of Terror we are still just able to bear.”

Alex is a keen climber and professes to have unconditional love for the mountains and for the outdoors. He grew up in Yorkshire in the North of England, but has visited the Alps in Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia since a young age. During these trips he fell in love not only with the light, the forms of the mountains and with walking in them, but also with the stories, myths, histories and traditions associated with the places he stayed in.However, although this passion is obvious and profound (for nothing less would drive him to create so much upon the theme), the paintings are all (about) surface. He uses a technique similar to that used by makers of Hollywood backdrop paintings: the untextured canvases provided the most convincing background for the action taking place before them. In this way, Alex’s paintings may be understood as a demonstration of their own failure to depict what they try to.

“My work comes out of a feeling of loss, when I return from wandering the hills and primeval forests. ...In some ways the dirndle girl is me: terrified, transfixed, naive as her youthful sense of invincibility is destroyed by the very environment that inspired it in the first place”

Mountains offer at once an escape and escapism. Without denying the possibility of the presence of a darker side lurking just beneath or beyond the surface, Alex’s paintings offer temporary relief from our fractured existence.