By Peter Pinson OAM
Bernd Heinrich -
midway through his studies at the Art Academy
in Augsburg - visited the important international art exhibition Documenta
3 in Kassel, West Germany. That year, Documenta’s Artistic Director
Werner Haftmann selected artists who generally reflected his notion of
“abstraction as a world language”. They included Horst Antes, Pierre
Alechinsky, Antoni Clave, Andre Masson, Kurt Schwitters, Antoni Tapies and
Joseph Beuys. Heinrich later recalled that the exhibition “opened (his)
eyes to modern art, and to abstract expressionism”. The influence of
these artists on the young Heinrich was reinforced by the work of Robert
Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly, which he subsequently encountered in European galleries.
Cy Twombly, which he subsequently encountered in European galleries.
when Bernd Heinrich arrived in Australia in 1970 (settling here in 1974),
his work was soundly rooted in the abstract and expressionist tendencies
of post-war European and American painting. By 1970, abstract
expressionism had long expired as the central force in Sydney painting,
and the front of formal colour abstractionists which had succeeded
abstract expressionism was itself fragmenting into other styles and
concerns. By 1970, new technologies and fresh genres of art practice
(including performance and documentation) were emerging. The viability of
painting itself was called into question in some theorist circles. Bernd
Heinrich became one of a group of Australian artists who emerged in the
1970s (Ann Thomson was another) who demonstrated the continuing vitality
of painting, and especially painting that drew upon expressionist and
Heinrich’s paintings are complex and multi-layered. Their meanings are
subtle and evasive, even inscrutable. He has described his painting as
dealing with “metaphor, unexplained things, emotional associations, and
with poetry”. For all their athletic, abstract painterliness, Heinrich's
paintings retain references to the landscape, or to the figure, or to
humanity’s accoutrements. He sets these references to objects, torsos,
popular culture, and symbols into scatological play against each other.
Sometimes the images are accompanied by notations in a very elegant but
not-quite-decipherable hand - like a 19th century botanist’s scientific
observations or the clinical notes of a pre-World War 1 Middle-European
psychiatrist. These passages of suave script contrast with the nervous,
tentative, irritable, or furious linear scribbling that is a recurrent
device. This combination of painting, drawing, and diaristic-notations is
shared with another immigrant painter, John Wolseley (who settled in
Australia at almost precisely the same time as Heinrich).
various images seem to intrigue or conspire with or against one another.
Their connections don’t seem contrived, but at the same time they are
not logical. They have the loose or brittle relationships that might
derive from free associations: sometimes unfathomable, sometimes wry,
sometimes disturbing. Heinrich's early paintings explored surrealist
imagery, and he absorbed the lessons of surrealism well, especially the
disturbing power of the enigma and the compelling impact of the
of Heinrich’s paintings are developed around a sequence of five to
eight horizontal lines. These lines initially referred to the bar lines on
a page of music. The lines serve to establish of a syntax to the picture,
a kind of meter. They establish a structure which links the disparate
forms, images, and marks.
the same time, there is a strong sense of landscape in Heinrich’s
paintings. Partly this is due to the motifs alluding obliquely to
the incidents and objects and landforms one might encounter in the bush or
the park. Partly it is due to his use of passages of paint that evoke the
earth - sometimes coarse and scarred, sometimes as smooth and enticing as
a savanna glistening beneath a film of morning dew.
ultimately Heinrich’s “landscapes” do not present the wide, brown
topography of our national geography. They probe the dishevelled
topography of our personal subconscious.
by Imogen Corlette
One of the most striking and intriguing elements of the new
landscape work being produced in Australia at the moment
in the shift towards treating the canvas as the landscape
rather than using it simply to represent or depict. In this way,
the artist is re-cast as ' toiler the earth' as opposed to its renderer.
The application of paint, bracken, metal, glazes, found objects
etc the two dimensional canvas therefore represents
construction in its own right.
In these works, the Australian landscape is reborn, not as a
colonial outpost, surveyor's plot, picturesque sign of leisure/work,
ownership, but as a conceptual and aesthetic "playground"
for the artist's imagination. Bernd is one such artist, whose
work are, quintessentially, contemporary Australian landscape,
with a look that is simultaneously haunted, scarred, entrancing,
lucid and resonating.
The conceptual base of Bernd's work is highly esoteric.
The sense of secrecy in the images is strong, with the landscape
abstracted to the point where depth, focus and form are almost,
obscured - and where the earth appears to harbor secrets and
symbols which point outwards to realms beyond the canvas.
This ghostly aesthetic has undertones of Fred Williams and
Arthur Boyd whose work has also featured an unsettling sense
of the mysterious in Australian landscape and outback.
Bernd's gestural process of constructing the images also bears
a somewhat tortured likeness to the more abstract works of
Bernd's works are both highly physical (in the complex and
rigorous nature of their construction) and highly esoteric.
The result is a body of work which makes a well grounded and
stimulating contribution to both "Australian Landscape" as an
art historical genre, and to "Contemporary Landscape"
as a vital element of current international artistic practice.
My paintings are “Playgrounds – Landscapes,"
My paintings are “Playgrounds – Landscapes,"
an inner experience of freedom and passion not restricted by
conventions or boundaries.
In my journey as an artist I am inspired to create from the
inside out to express my fascination and passion in combining
my inner world with reality.
“Playgrounds in time and space” are my re-occurring themes.
Divided and separated by space, lines, images, symbols, forms
and shapes – composed like a sheet of music in the harmony
of a visual symphony – to reveal my inner world.
My canvases are often heavily textured, deeply scarred and
evoke the feeling of being sculptured.
Often I use found objects, architectural symbols,
silkscreen images or find it necessary to include written
statements or pieces of poetry to underline or human presence.