@Armory ’13: Johannes Heisig’s Oozing Color

Two figures eerily creep through a scene, with a strong sense of light shooting up at them. Dark shadows are cast behind everything that catches the light, and within one of the corners sits a sculpted portrait bust, whose giant face looms like the Ghost of Performances Past. His nose is broken and his mouth is twisted, and the space behind his head is the only part painted black – an ominous warning against the dangers of acting, cautioning how much of your own self that might be forfeited in the desire to become someone else on stage.

And even though the subject matter may lean towards the creepy, the colors are anything but – bright oranges and whites against a pale green background, colors painted so thick that they become autonomous, living on their own within the 63 x 79 inches of canvas, bleeding and oozing but with enough restraint for detail. There’s a strong sense of the artist’s hand across a floor that’s painted in lines mimicking the light’s direction. But the walls and clothes seem to glow from the color within them, somehow shiny and organic at the same time.

"Performance" by Johannes Heisig, 2012

“Performance” by Johannes Heisig, 2012


Also on view in Heisig’s booth on the Modern Art pier was a triptych of sorts – three watery interpretations of himself, each numbered as a different “Selbstbetrachtung” or “Self Reflection.” Each utilizes a distinct color palette and emphasizes a different part of the artist’s face – the first focuses on his nose, the second on his head/ear, and the third on his mouth and chin, as if he painted three different still frames from one good head shaking. They could be three totally different people, and shown altogether they play with the ideas of how drastically the way we view ourselves changes from day to day and hour to hour.

The artist stares right at you in the middle portrait – his head swimming in bright colors that highlight the fleshiness of his skin that’s even painted a burning red/orange in some places. His eyes look out disapprovingly, his mouth puckered in a grimace as if he’s judging your outfits or your bad habits from within the frame. If you look closely, you can see each individual stroke of the artist’s brush – they seem random and chaotic, but somehow take a few steps back and they come together  to become an impassioned kind of melting impressionism.



Heisig’s “Selbstbetrachtung” or “Self Reflections”


Johannes Heisig, 60, has been described as a social realist painter working in subjective expressionism. From Germany, he’s painted a number of German politicians and also works in graphic design and illustration. His artwork has been shown throughout Europe since the early 80s, and at the Armory Show he was represented by Die Galerie in Frankfurt. 


"Selbstbetrachtung I (Self Reflection I), 2010.

“Selbstbetrachtung I (Self Reflection I), 2010.


See more from Johannes Heisig on his website