PHILIPPE COUBETERGUES, 2006
HEIDI WOOD in the 10th arrondissement, Paris
April 19 to May 10 2006
There are at least two ways of apprehending an artist's work. The first consists of looking at what she did and asking what it is, as profoundly and comprehensively as possible, in going well beyond appearances (which as everyone knows are often misleading when art is concerned). The second consists of doing the opposite and asking how it is made, which approach, intuition or intention is behind it, in going well beyond platitudes (which are easy to recognize - they are often the first things that come to mind). In this back and forth movement, we may well encounter a work of art. It is an exercise that requires a little concentration and a lot of curiosity.
Let's take the example of what Heidi Wood proposes here. What is it? It is an image in a light box placed in the public sphere. What does the image represent? It is a photograph of her neighborhood. Within this image is second image. We recognize it without recognizing it. We have seen it somewhere before without being able to say where. In short, it is a light box hung in a real place. In the light box is a photographic image and in this image is an abstract shape. We can legitimately make a certain number of observations on the effects of this image within the image within the image. But let's look at things from the perspective of how they are made, their causality. Heidi Wood designs an abstract shape (a sort of painting) in reference to her daily iconic environment, saturated with this familiar signage. It is a generic image made to look like many others without specifically being any of them. A sort of logo without a brand - less a brand image than the essence of a brand. In line with current communication strategies, the artist looks for a place to hang her painting. She imagines placing it in her immediate surroundings - let's say downstairs from where she lives. And instead of getting permission to really do it, she creates an image that simulates it. Finally, to communicate on her project, she puts it in a small light box and hangs it in a public place.
In total, there are ten light boxes placed in ten different places in the 10th arrondissement: ten occurrences for a same working method conceived in response to an invitation from the town hall. The specificity of Heidi Wood's work is precisely that she simulates promotion strategies used by the commercial sector by infiltrating traditional networks of urban communication and in establishing a professional relationship of service provider with her patrons. In other words, Heidi Wood is less a painter than a designer of forms inspired by and destined for a given site. She is aware that, today more than ever, images only exist in relation to their environment. Their quality - and as a result, their status - is only understood through the connections they establish with the context in which they are inscribed. In taking virtual possession of spaces normally given over to billboard advertising, by submitting her forms to the context liable to engender them, she does not denounce or corrupt a system. She exploits it. She makes it serve her own artistic ends. She adapts to the most immediate modes of exteriorization, to the conditions of expression of her times.
Painting from life once meant setting up an easel in the landscape to make a picture of it. The artwork was conceived in this direct confrontation between the motif and the referent. In the completely reinvented landscaped context of the modern world that the image has conquered, often by replacing the real, it could be that Heidi Wood incarnates the surprisingly updated figure of the "painter from life". Her paintings are inscribed within our most trivial everyday environment, acting to reveal our conditioned relation to the world and to images.
Translated from French