31.08 – 24.09.2016
A solo painting exhibition by Heidi Fourie.
“Painterly marks not only make up subjects but are subjects in themselves.” Heidi Fourie is constantly rethinking the notion of ‘the painting.’ She is very much inspired by the nature of the medium, embracing painting’s inherent language of mark-making to explore the balance of order and chaos, control and uncontrollability, figuration and its negation in the picture plane.
Fourie completed her BA Fine Arts (cum laude) in 2012 at the University of Pretoria. She has participated in a number of group exhibitions in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Antwerp. She has also been a finalist in Sasol New Signatures (2011, 2013), ABSA l’Atelier (2013, 2014), Thami Mnyele Fine Art Awards (2012, 2013) and Sanlam Portrait Awards (2013, 2015). Her subject matter is selected from daily encounters with environments or existing media such as film and virtual spaces. She has recently started exploring the Internet as an alternative and somewhat distorted means of travel and exploration, while some paintings are based on physical travels and scenes from the garden of her childhood home. “All of the places depicted, whether found virtually or on physical visits, are borrowed from its owners and transformed into new fictional spaces”. The scenes display various degrees of human interference.
From the garden in which I spent my childhood, to other people’s gardens and land, to steal-shots from virtually recorded public spaces, I searched relentlessly for scenes to translate into interesting and perhaps puzzling or unsettling paintings. Visiting all these spaces I felt myself a spectator, finding everything in a predetermined state co-designed by nature and its respective owners. Most of the scenes display some degree of human intervention and were perhaps even abandoned halfway through construction or underwent some decay. When I begin to paint I start to become an active participant in the landscape design, and the scene becomes detached from its geographical origins and become a fiction.
When choosing subjects I look for forms which lend themselves to specific approaches to mark making and keep the act of painting and the nature of oil paint in mind. I felt like a child at play in a vast and infinite garden, with something interesting and daunting behind every corner driven by curiosity and wonder. My father’s garden thus seemed an appropriate setting or playground, as although the lay of the land and geographical features have stayed the same throughout my experiences of it, Vegetation has constantly been redesigned and went through cycles of being improved upon and seasonal neglect. Exploring this garden after a year of living elsewhere, it seemed an unfamiliar place with an uncanny familiarity especially under the veil of darkness.
Relatively new, virtual means of travel present the convenience of teleportation to accommodate my impatience and tendency to boredom so I never need to stick around in a place longer than I feel. I played around with the inevitable glitches that occur and “paint” with the data at hand by creating the illusion of movement through manipulating the view strategically. The process of painting adds another layer of anomaly to the image where the stubbornness and will of the oils and pigments interferes with my intention of representation. I constantly alternate my focus from the parts and the whole, the gestalt and the individual marks, to assure the integrity of both. If I accidentally create an interesting and visually pleasing mark it has to be left untampered with even if it does not resemble the corresponding area in the reference as it will be an injustice to the painting to favour the existing reality above the fiction.
I want there to be some ambiguity on the origin of the respective paintings and create a mystery around which are from my childhood backyard, which from physical hikes or virtual “hikes”.
The title is inspired by the East Asian principle of “incorporating background landscape into the composition of a garden”. Borrowed Scenery is largely a continuation of my first solo exhibition, Islands (2015), where I spent countless hours travelling the virtually recorded world through Google street view from the singular vantage point of my studio. I imagined myself on an island, catching mere glimpses of other islands. Rather than following a continuous trajectory, I jumped from one place to the next and was specifically interested in the moments of transition where everything deforms and abstracts. For this body of work I added more personal footage and included familiar figures and imagery obtained from my own physical travels. I thus took features from outside and inside my physical reach to create my painterly mark-laden garden.
Artwork titles are borrowed from the book, An essay on the picturesque, as compared with the sublime and the beautiful, and, on the use of studying pictures, for the purpose of improving real landscape by British author, Uvedale Price, written in 1794. Price pleads for a greater respect to retaining the character, textures and idiosyncrasies of the environment in a garden’s “improvement” and avoiding over embellishment, excessive symmetry and over regulation. He asserts that nature and accidental formation possess greater ability than humans to create a pleasing and interesting composition.
Painting the Evocative Space
Written by Natasha Norman
He walked to the window and looked out on to the cool night sky.
Hontar gave a cough. ‘You had no choice. You must work in the real world. And the real world is thus.’
‘Oh no,’ said Altamirano. ‘Thus have we made it.’ 
JM Coetzee in his White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa (1988) comments on the way that William Burchell (a man of science and an amateur painter) first observed the South African landscape through the lens of the Italian landscape tradition of the picturesque. Burchell’s exploration of the Cape colony and interior in 1822 lead him to exclaim the existence of a “species of beauty” with which European painters “may not yet be sufficiently acquainted” . It seems a charming notion to us now that early explorers were so intent on aestheticizing their experience of a new landscape through the conventions of a painting tradition from an altogether different geographic climate. And yet the tomes on notions of landscape – its design in ideals of gardening or systems of portrayal in histories of art – lie dusty beneath our current conceptions of landscape as a contemporary image.
In a similar way to Burchell’s encounter with the foreign South African landscape, we encounter the imaging of land through the mediums of mapping, film and photography already packaged and framed within the aesthetic conventions of their technology. Such framings emerge as a strong aestheticizing force in our conceptions of real experiences of space.
Heidi Fourie’s Borrowed Scenery is an exploration in paint of this interplay between a longstanding tradition of landscape painting and the impact of contemporary forms of imaging the landscape upon a human experience of it. Contemporary notions of the real are heavily mediated by a history of the visual as well as new technologies of vision. The quote from Bolt’s 1988 book and film The Mission alerts us to this phenomenon: what is real is removed from us through the words and images which we create of it, and yet it is through our descriptions, imaging and ideas about the real, that we in fact ‘make it thus’.
Fourie’s landscapes attempt to be anonymous spaces, removed from the specificity of place in order to evoke an expository conception of the way one approaches space. While her theme is sited in the tradition of landscape painting (oil on canvas and paper) she consistently takes obtuse directions in her works to challenge remnants of the Burchell-type gazing of our own time.
Inspired by her research of the Chinese tradition of landscape painting, which under the Yuan Dynasty began to depart from the pure function of representation to the description of the “inner landscape of the artist’s heart and mind,”  Fourie often choses scenes that appear to be a glance away from the composed vista. Her source material is sifted from a combination of regular hiking, a game of GeoGuessr on Streetview or memories of her Dad’s backyard. The digital distortions of an image sourced online or the scopic glitch of a fish-eye camera lens draw attention to the mediated quality of her view while providing an important moment for a more personal interest in the challenge of mark making. She conceives the painted space as a carrier for marks. Her choice of a source image is for the marks it can trigger in a final painting. Thus it is in the wiping away of a painted layer, the thinly applied wash or the bold impasto smear that the artist’s more personal landscape emerges: the space of paint.
A single figure leads us through Fourie’s painted spaces, evoking the fragility of moments – not a constructed allegorical stability. Like the (often) tiny figure, as viewer we are engulfed by the immersive, experiential quality of the works and awed by the deft use of marks to define form. Thus by the painter’s authoritative hand we consider the subjectivity of the mediated gaze.
Fourie’s borrowed sceneries in paint disrupt the complacency of how our conceptions of space shape our experience of place. Like Hontar and Altamirano, the viewer is left to consider the mediated nature of experience and how a painted reality can evoke something very real indeed.
 Robert Bolt, 1986, The Mission, Penguin Books: 282-283
 JM Coetzee 1988 White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa, Radix, South Africa: 38-39
 Department of Asian Art. “Landscape Painting in Chinese Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/clpg/hd_clpg.htm (October 2004)
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Artists We Love: Heidi Fourie