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Heidi Fourie: Masses


Fried Contemporary presents Masses, a solo exhibition of work by South African artist, Heidi Fourie. Any sentient creature must be awed by a monolith. Even lacking knowledge of geology, one must be astounded to imagine that such an enormous and uninterrupted mass of rock could survive the torments and tribulations of time. It must inspire some sort of confidence and feeling of security to know that something can be so stable and long lasting. When all around it are strewn cracked and disjointed heaps of rocks, the one stone must be esteemed and acknowledged as important. It is a place for a multitude of birds, reptiles and mammals to claim as their homes, and a place for the wise man from the parable to build his house, or for the adventurous seafaring nation to erect its lighthouse.

Titanic rocks can thus be said to hold a prominent place within consciousness at large, and although one might overlook them in the banalities of daily existence, one cannot deny that they are special when the time is taken to truly consider their attributes. Nigeria has printed their famous Zuma Rock on hundred Naira banknotes, the ancient Egyptians carved the wily Sphinx from a mass of limestone and the classical Greeks had the Pillars of Herakles to guard the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. The monolith is significant and laden with symbolism and may be a fitting metaphor for many things.

It is these suggestive and symbolic attributes of the giant rock that Heidi Fourie seems to be channelling and investigating in her newest body of work. The stones are situated within the surreal psychological landscape where De Chirico’s equestrian statues and empty market squares can be found, the unlimited picture planes where Miro’s hectic geometric figures dance. The monoliths are obstacles, altars, playgrounds, sculptures, sentimental mementoes; Rorschach blots around which the viewer forms or foments emotional and intellectual responses.

Fourie’s work is grounded in three sensations, one of having journeyed huge distances, one of much time rushing past, and one of paint – present in its utmost paintness. A deep sense of clutched-at but ungrasped narrative runs through the work, ideas of place are the words of the tale and the flowing of paint is the vehicle that carries it forward. As one wanders and wonders from the grip of one painting to the next, a feeling of being many people at many times at once takes hold of one.

The appeal of the artist’s paintings lies in the intertwined relationship between what she paints with how she paints it. Her fascination with the riverine valley is demonstrated by the highly fluid streams of paint that carve their ways through the surrounding pigment. The smeared and smashed thrusts of relentless rock are pulled up over the canvas with broad and slowly irresistible strokes. Drops of paint become drops of coloured mineral magma petrified within igneous formations. Smooth strokings-over with tissue paper and cotton recall the soothing caress of millennia of rushing rivers.

When the energies of these geo-forming processes are exhausted, Fourie makes a second pass over her canvas. This time, as archaeologist and investigator, she scrapes and scrubs away at paint in search of layers of colour or bright white ground beneath. From this perspective, the rocks depicted take on the character of museum exhibits. One is either looking at fragments of a comet placed in a glass box by a university researcher, or specimens from Io, collected by a Jovian rover. A glass-plate negative from a dusty archive hangs next to the liquid crystal projection of broad-spectrum imagery describing off-planet monoliths. At times it seems that one is looking into an intricate diorama when suddenly the view is jarringly zoomed out and one stares out over a chasm from a mountain’s crown.

The thickly-layered and enveloping depth inherent in this exhibition by Fourie makes it a must-see. The viewer is privileged to revel in the mastery of painterly techniques, while experiencing novel views of the world and simultaneously being enabled to let his or her mind wander into itself and across psychic plains.

The exhibition runs until August 26, 2017.


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