Three Works

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.