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The CAC Malaga presents the first exhibition in Spain of Kati Keck's work
Heck moves between different disciplines and one of her defining traits is her mastery of painting, which recalls that of the great Old Masters, combined with the use of contemporary techniques.

MALAGA.- The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga is presenting the first solo exhibition in Spain and in a museum context of the work of Kati Heck. KOPF=KOPFNUSS, curated by Fernando Francés, includes 41 works: small- and large-format paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography and video. Heck moves between different disciplines and one of her defining traits is her mastery of painting, which recalls that of the great Old Masters, combined with the use of contemporary techniques. Her particular vision of the human body, with some elements deliberately distorted, and her practice of leaving some of her canvases unfinished are other distinguishing features that define her work. Kati Heck was born in Germany and studied in Antwerp and Vienna. She now lives and works in Antwerp. This exhibition is among those organised to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the CAC Málaga (2003-2013).

“I need the reference of the real image but I have to combine it with my own anecdotes. It seems to me boring to always paint the same thing. Decline or illness can be more beautiful and exciting than painting a pretty face”, Kati Heck (born Dusseldorf, Germany, 1979) has noted on more than one occasion in relation to her work. KOPF=KOPFNUSS comprises a selection of 42 works that offers a survey of this German artist’s output over the past five years. Many of them have not previously been exhibited. Heck is noted for her combination of photo-realism with other distorted or invented elements.

For Fernando Francés, Director of the CAC Málaga: “A striking feature of Heck’s work is the characters’ ability to mutate: they seem happy but suddenly they become melancholy, sad, angry, with amused expressions, creating a mixture of sensations but drawn with a mastery and technique inherited from the German Expressionist school. Heck plays with interpretative potential of her figures, conveying this in her painting and giving a dramatic or an ironic sense to everything she does. Suddenly, she distorts a foot or the fingers of one of her figures in a way of attracting the viewer’s attention, who sees a real scene as if it were a dream. We never know where the limits are. This is a dangerous, provocative game, which is easy to fall into but hard to get out of. This capacity to surprise – although the surprise sometimes brings out much darker thoughts – is what initially captures the attention of those looking at her work.”

The legacy of earlier German and European painting is evident in Heck’s work. When painting bodies she combines figuration with Expressionist elements in the distortion of the arms and feet, with the evident influence of 20th- and 21st-century German artists such as Otto Dix and Martin Kippenberger. This versatility is particularly evident in both her drawings and large-format paintings, with some canvases deliberately left partly unpainted.

Heck’s works make use of an almost theatrical setting. The artist dresses up her models and invents poses to represent scenes, either everyday ones involving her friends and in which she herself appears (Danke, das wär dann alles, 2013) or invented ones (Piece, 2013). These works refer to her studio and the context in which she works, contributing elements from her own life to the compositions. They reflect her immediate surroundings with a considerable degree of humour and irony (Babydetektiv mit Sekretärin, 2012). The artist even includes herself, but shown as observing and directing the action.

Despite representing relaxed, cheerful scenes in most of her works, there is also a sense of drama. Some critics have included Heck within Post-feminist movements due to the way she depicts the body, in particular in her female nudes. For the artist, a work should not just represent the attractive or well proportioned parts but must also reveal the covered up, dark zones that are not seen or appreciated at first sight. Heck has read thrillers and mystery novels since she was a child and it is possibly for this reason that she feels attracted to the unknown and the imperfect.

Another device used by this artist is language. Heck uses German, although not of the standard type, rather employing slang and even making up words. These phrases or single words are part of her discourse, on occasions giving rise to messages difficult to interpret. The verbal and non-verbal language in the expression of the figures and their poses offers clues to the work’s final interpretation. The food and foodstuffs such as sausages, potatoes and cucumbers are other typically German elements of which Heck frequently makes use (Discoveries I, 2013).

Despite this, humour and irony are notably present in Heck’s work, on some occasions in the form of caricatures of her own characters, who seem to be taken from a story. Imagination and reality combine and cannot always be distinguished. In addition, there is a clear influence of comics, thrillers and even the aesthetic of cartoons. Nonetheless, Heck’s work also features references to the philosophical and historical thinking of German writers such as the celebrated poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, combined with the artist’s own personal experiences. Drawing and painting are not enough to satisfy Heck’s creative requirements and she also makes use of disciplines and techniques including collage, sculpture, photography, printmaking, film and performance.

Kati Heck was born in Dusseldorf in 1979. She studied Fine Arts at the Antwerp and Vienna Academies. She now lives and works in Antwerp. Her work has been included in collective exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world, including the Saatchi Gallery in London (2012) and the National Art Museum of China in Beijing (2010). She has also been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Tim Van Laere Gallery in Antwerp (2011), the Mary Boone Gallery, New York (2008), and the Museum Het Domein in Sittard, the Netherlands (2008). In 2011 Heck was awarded the Ikob Art Award for painting.

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