12 January – 6 March 2021
It took longer than I thought, more than a year at least, until I agreed on a date to visit Ilja Heinig in his country studio in Wehningen on the Elbe. All that we had loosely agreed on was an exhibition date for the beginning of 2021, what we would exhibit was to be decided on location in Wehningen. It was over three years since we had organised the last of our 4 – 5 exhibitions together, and I have known his work for at least 30 years.
Within contemporary art Ija Heinig is considered one of the „New Wild Ones”. During my first encounters with his work this initially irritated me as the so-called “New Wild Ones” such as Salome, Elvira Bach, or even Rainer Fetting, all tended to paint figuratively.
In contrast Heinig painted, and still paints, abstract works. The canvases, always executed with a bold gesture, are sometimes reminiscent of Action Painting. The impression is given that someone is at work here – and this can already be seen in his early works from the beginning of the 1980s – who applies the paint to the white surface with a thick brush in an initial impulse, a bricklayer as Quast would say. And frequently in just one colour, e.g. red or even yellow and blue, which reacts to and continues the black beginning. Heinig’s pictures appear as if they have been thrown down in an intoxication of painting or painting action. He doesn’t ponder or consider things for long, the pictures grow quite naturally from out of themselves.
With these thoughts in the back of my mind I travelled to Wehningen, and as Ilja and I crossed the large estate and he unlocked the studio and put on the light, I was initially speechless. Without a doubt, these were works from Ilja Heinig, one could clearly see their origin. But it wasn’t just that they were more colourful in parts, radiating a great freshness, they captivated one, leading one along the painterly path that Ilja had travelled and continues to travel.
We spoke about his new work for a long time, at some points I thought he wanted to withdraw one of the
pictures I had selected for the exhibition as he suddenly considered it unfinished. However, I told him that I was already arranging the exhibition in my mind’s eye, and that this one was absolutely essential.
His answer, at the end, before we went over to the house, opened a beer and chose the smaller format works: “Simply take with you what you feel is right, everything in my painting is always in movement anyway, I frequently don’t know whether it is finished or not, and I don’t actually care as everything is IN PROCESS.”
Matthias Fuhrmann, December 2020
translated by Colin Shepherd
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