Art / Susanna Heller
From the artist
:: Account ::
I walk every day up and down the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, over the bridges, along the waterfronts, and up onto the high perches of various tall towers, wildly sketching/drawing the movement and gestures of the urban landscape from all vantage points. (For example, one precious year spent on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center, North Tower, in 1999 – 2000.)
My paintings focus on space and movement; I want to suggest a constant sense of motion on the canvas, my implication being that ‘static’ or ‘complete’ are terms that don’t exist in our experienced lives! The seemingly contradictory pursuit, that is, using a very static and finite form as a painting or drawing to express these ideas, is exactly what intrigues me. It’s the way we humans interpret through the sensory, emotional, and social languages that I am negotiating. Through my application of color and paint, I have spent decades depicting wind, light, and smoke, and even travel, time, TIME PASSING. I want to bring clarity to the energy, smells, and sounds of the city; perspectives are distorted and are multiple in each work.
Often from a bird’s eye view, I am depicting moods of an urban atmosphere at the mercy of the natural elements, influenced and changed by dawn or rain, and an accompanying sense of flight or heady vertigo. My paintings encapsulate entire cityscapes: buildings crowded together below massive weather systems, full of energy and in perpetual turmoil.
Even in the most expressive paintings of sun or storm, the city is always present; it is a distinct reminder of our home and heart and life under the enormity of the skies.
A painting, like a walk, connects the physical experience: (feet on the ground/paint on the canvas), to movement, energy, and space. Past, present, and future are all ignited with each moment of seeing or each step taken. We all live in different ‘nows,’ but in a painting, you enter and travel in a multitude of ways at the same moment, a time element that is not linear but cyclical!
I love to read, interpret, and depict the thicks and thins of urban routes. A painting can bend, stretch, and multiply space and time in a single place. It can bring that which is invisible or unconscious, unnoticed or unnamed, into the forefront of a seemingly ordinary moment.
The high-pitched intensity of cities (mostly New York), can be expressed through chaotic masses of paint that explode above and below minimal skylines, which I like to make shift and disappear. These are sourced from hundreds of drawings done on sight during long wanderings on foot throughout the city. The paintings are about the city, but mostly they are about the thickness of paint and the ability of the human hand to move it.
Susanna Heller was born in New York in 1956, but grew up in Montreal, Canada. After completing college at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Heller returned to New York. She has lived and worked in Brooklyn since 1981. Her awards include grants and fellowships from the NEA, Guggenheim Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Canada Council, and Yaddo. She is represented by the Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto and MagnanMetz gallery in New York.