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paris-art.com, June 2003

paris-art.com, June 2003

Exhibition review by Philippe Coubetergues
Heidi Wood at the Planète Magique
Galerie Anne Barrault, Paris
4 June - 12 July 2003

Galerie Anne Barrault is currently showing a solo exhibition by Heidi Wood. A total of eight digital photographs are presented as the fruit of a specific study of a place. Let us remember that Heidi Wood is a painter. Her paintings contain simple forms in contrasting colors. These forms come from a vocabulary of signs that is both secret and familiar. They seem diverted from a readable register whilst retaining an unaltered signaling power. Sometimes brought together in polyptychs, the paintings, like sentences, introduce striking yet indecipherable significations. This coded information should be seen in relation to the environments that receive them. This is why Heidi Wood is exhibiting photographs this time. They are records or statements of the fleeting installations that preceded this exhibition. It will become clear that these photographs are also conceived like the paintings. The place where the paintings were hung and photographed is itself fairly improbable. It is an old amusement park called the "Planète Magique" situated in the heart of Paris in an old theater. This theme park was created in the 1980s but for safety reasons, never really operated. The decor has remained intact. Before it is transformed once again, the artist chose the site to make a series of photos of her paintings in situation.

It may be more accurate to speak of "mises en scène". The artist entitles them Serving Suggestions. They are propositions for presenting or hanging. It is evident that these suggestions are based on formal and chromatic parallels. A given architectural curve is reflected in the outline of a shape; a particular color finds its equivalent or complementary in the painting, etc. The paintings can be made for the occasion, or partly adapted. They can also belong to the artist's "personal collection" that exists before the project and gradually comes together as a Codex, a system of constantly reusable signs. But in truth, the calculated layout of these encounters between painting and place, the careful interactions with the decor and the impeccable hangings signals something else. Set in the square composition of the touched up photographs, these shopfront window-style ideal interiors soon reveal their artificial and derisory angle, their banal and fleeting aspect. In the end, these images stand out as decorative vanities where the reciprocal game of enhancing painting and place is the setting for a portrait of the absent user. In the slick reflection of these "seductive" photographs sandwiched under Plexiglas, it is highly likely that the visitor will recognize him/herself.

These photographs are paintings in two ways: because of their origin (the paintings that are presented) as well as their genesis and elaboration (each element in the image functions above all esthetically, lines, colors, textures, etc.) The visual quality of the photographs is pushed to the point where the images become almost abstract, despite a clearly figurative dimension. They are abstract in the conceptual, fabricated, artificial sense as well as in their stylistic proximity to geometric abstraction. In Heidi Wood's painting, there is a sense of nostalgia for the utopias of space on which abstraction of the 1920s and 30s was founded.

Yet this idea of an abstraction of the decor, this "abstract ambiance" of perfectly "designed" architecture, this rigorous geometry of flat spaces and perspectives is seen from the subversive angle of Pop stylishness. Before our very eyes, the marvelous world of "Heidiland" appears, where on a magic planet the borders between painting and reality are abolished. Welcome to the pretty world of Heidi Wood in Wonderland.

Translated from French