New Zealand-born, Brooklyn-based artist Angela Heisch’s first UK solo exhibition, Burgeon and Remain, is a masterful and thought provoking debut.
Created during the throws of lockdown in March 2021, Heisch’s commute to her nearby studio offered her purpose and a moment of freedom in what felt like an increasingly restricted world, “I was looking at these patterns in nature, but also these patterns that we rely on like changing of the seasons, or even just the walk to my studio.
Noticing the subtle changes of the leaves in the trees, these time stamps that felt really helpful to depend and rely on.” This time also gave Heisch and fellow artists a precious opportunity to not conform to the art fair, show, exhibition conveyor belt schedule, “it felt so good to make something so inconsequential and just like explore.”
Heisch’s artistic adventures are evident in Burgeon Remain, a sublime exploration of crescendoing and diminuendoing colour, sweeping rhythmically across the canvas, dotted with leaf like shapes and buzzing eyes at the core of each panel.
Looking at each of Heisch’s oils feels not dissimilar to watching a symphony, “I think of them on a stage or something, in a theatrical sense.” Unsurprisingly, music was in fact Heisch’s first love, starting college as a flutist before later switching to art, a place that feels closer to home.
Growing up, Heisch’s father was a storyboard illustrator and graphic designer in Auckland, “I grew up in his studio spending time there. My parents have always been very nurturing.”
It’s easy to see why people associate Heisch’s work with synesthesia, but Heisch prefers “to be less specific. It’s more rhythmic and sensory and emotive.” This very lack of specificity is where the magic in this show lies. Here, Heisch honours the unknown, encouraging the viewer to be at peace with it.
Heisch’s rejection of resolution and conclusion feels unfamiliar in todays world where we are expected to form immediate opinions about anything and everything — “part of this work has been a reaction to that, to the polarity in the US, and the exhaustion of both sides being so convinced that they know what’s right … This is such a great function of abstract art and I know it’s a frustration to a lot of people, for people who don’t know anything about painting in general.
“ I know people who get really frustrated looking at a painting and saying, ‘What is it? What does it mean? Why should I care about this? Should I care about this just because it’s nice to look at?’
Rather than looking outwardly when gazing at art, Heisch looks inwardly, “I think so much of abstract painting specifically functions so much like a mirror. It’s whatever you load onto it, whatever you put on the table is what you’re going to get back from it. It’s almost just a reflection of everything you’re carrying around.”
After the depths of the pandemic, it’s an enormous relief to get lost in the “marinated colours” of Heisch’s palette, humming harmoniously as they amorphously swirl and dissipate across the panels. It’s a show that can be enjoyed by all, a place that feels “unknown, unfamiliar and other worldly. I want these words to feel like a positive point of reflection, just like [when] you get those very full moments of where you think this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, it just feels amazing and insane that you’re here.
“I feel like these kind of moments we should force ourselves to pause on, especially after this past year, but I want those feelings to feel very light. There is so much heaviness and so much distraction — you don’t have to be bored or reflective ever anymore, so forcing yourself to kind of pause, which is something I struggle with too.
“The practice of making art is very reflective, it just forces you to be so patient, so I do want these paintings to be a reflection of that process.”
Impatiently we wait for Heisch’s next show, this time via a solo booth at the art fair under her New York gallery, the . In the meantime, visit the gallery to bath in Heisch’s joyously calm and serene paintings, a haven amidst London’s chaotic Soho.