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Foreword (catalogue 2017)
Dr. Jutta M. Bagdahn, Art historian, December 2016, Berlin
I knew the name of the Berliner Christian Heinrich a few years before I personally got to know him. The initial one sided encounter happened in the Freiburger Gallery Meier, in which I saw an artwork that I couldn't immediately categorize. Confused at the time I looked upon an unfamiliar sujet with a highly aesthetic attractiveness and charm, in a rather small format. It was held in a wonderful meditative blue with a relative strongly structured surface from haptic quality. Upon closer inspection I would have loved to explore the surface with my fingertips.
I don't remember the title of the artwork any-more, but that it reminded me of the skin of an archaic reptile, so in association I named it “Blue Crocodile”. Now questions really came up. e.g. Questions about the picture carrier. Was it parchment, canvas or only paper? What processes allow such surface textures to be created? Which intentions is the artist pursuing, is he an environmental activist? How could I place this hanging object, as a painting or as a collage.
In 2006 I became personally acquainted with the extremely versatile person and talented active artist Christian Heinrich, learned details of his background, of his ability and skills in general, and subtle techniques in particular. I learned everything that allowed him to become what he is today. Though many changes have taken place in his life, one thing hasn't changed, Christian Heinrich remains a loner for whom an atelier association is unthinkable. Always alone and especially at home in his Berliner atelier he places his sensory experiences of long faded fragrances, shredded memories of sounds, his journey impressions in cycles that vary themselves in certain topic circles again and again. As a painter Christian Heinrich works in a very pronounced and refined picture language, whose creative and technical elements he consistently evolves for himself.
Looking back the in 1957 born Berliner appears to have been a rather introverted child, initially less with painting and drawing, but rather fond of tinkering and handicrafts. Its even rumoured he was a predominantly non-artistic child, and that his mother at times helpfully assisted with difficult assignments for art class. Presumably as a consequence of better pedagogy in high school he was in a position to deepen his interest for art, and wake an enduring bonding. In any case it was only logical that between 1977 to 1985 he studied the history of art and archaeology (the old aunt of art history) as well as journalism at the Free University Berlin, before he began studies at the Universität der Künste Berlin (University of Art) setting the course for his artistic career. Over the years he worked interdisciplinary repeatedly together with the playwright Heiner Müller, became a Master Student of professor Herbert Kaufmann in 1986, and then from 1988 to 1991 himself an assistant professor for stage design; then the preforming-art was equally of great interest and built for years a further focal point in his life.
From 1995 onward, in more or less greater intervals, study-travelling and teaching activities followed; the first lasting formative trip was 1987 to Turkey. The USA stood as his focal point from 1995 to 1998, especially the East and West Coast together with the magnificent South-West, but all that changed itself after the year 2000. Since then South Africa has a magical attraction on him, a country that according to his own remarks fascinate him to this day, in that he believes to sense his roots, always surprising him again and again, where he feels at home.
In the critical spirit of optimism of his studies Christian Heinrich followed the universal expectation that art had to be political and the public must be aroused and alerted. Correspondingly broadly prepared and troublesome was the subject matter, that consisted in itself German Postwar History, experiments on animals and distressful environmental problematic. Mostly he cut pictures out of magazines such as Geo and Stern, joined the pieces together to form a puzzle and over painted it later with bright oil colours, so that a so called oil collage was created, a term that he first used in 1990. Yet this kind of critical realism ended where the installation stood nearer then the collage, the cloudy realization that concentrated suffering only evokes aversion and distance. The spectator was to look at and not look away, he wanted to go in new directions with attractive appealing art in the future. He turned himself from specific to non-specific, however remaining until today absolutely figurative but recognizable in his works, that frequently in abstract landscape depiction, but occasionally also dip onto amorphous forms that suggest a vague human presence. Christian Heinrich is actually a master of suggestion with a collage art per-excellence. He created collagen on a sand background, experimented in the mid 1990s with hand scooped laid paper, tissue and Japan paper, and toward the end of the decade relief collagen on wood also found their way in his repertoire.
All of Christian Heinrich travels have been formative, and he brought souvenirs back from everywhere he went. Nevertheless the greatest fascination for his most significant working material overtook him in the pulsating metropolis New York, where he found his El Dorado on Broadway in Kate's Paperie. The shop, that unfortunately today no longer exist, sold hand scooped paper from all over the world, in every variation and thickness. The paper came e.g. from South America, Asia, India and Africa with a texture variation from spiders web delicate up to high fibre and robust. So to say every piece of laid paper brings its own history, since processed rice has a different characteristic then exotic elephant manure. A souvenir brought back and stored meticulous archived in his Berliner atelier, can find utilization years later in an art work. Before the idea becomes reality coincidence and planning flow controlled in-another in a diversity of ways, processing the precious paper. The paper gets soaked, oiled, immersed in glue, submitted to different drying processes, crumpled, creased, scraped, and also scorched. This way the picture background can paper layer for layer or island like grow upwards, in a way developing relief character. Then in the next step colour is applied, as a fine old masterly glaze or as a powerful colour relief, this colour layer also underlies a further processing. In this process its scratched, scraped and smoothed again and again, the still damp parts are shoved together or stretched to the tearing point. This playing with different paper and their two dimensional surface creates a three dimensional formation with mysterious surfaces with characteristics from gentle to metallic harsh, that can be mistaken for moist or greasy.
What initially began with a wide palette of earthen beige, brown, gray tones, widened around shining yellow and orange, enlarges itself in depth with rich red tones through purple and violet as well as blue, from soft aquamarine to ink black, pure colours vary with dull dusty appearing colours. The collage African collection once more reflects the powerful naturalness of the dark continent. On the tranquil surface one believes to recognise under the vibrate African sun what appears to be wall projections, dusty road surfaces, contorted huts full of nooks and crannies in the subdued African sunlight, the intensity not the colourfulness increases.
Worldwide there are over 3000 known varieties of paper, the material basis of our knowledge and our creativity, we read, draw, paint and write on paper. Will Christian Heinrich who's works have been seen since 1987 in individual and group exhibitions in Germany and abroad, hopefully continue to accomplish the unexpected on and out of paper. May he furthermore invite us to “Vertrauten Spuren” (Familiar Paths), to Kleinen Traumreisen” (Little Dream Journeys), to “Erinnerungen an Colorado” (Recollection of Colorado), “Manhattan” or “Vorgebirigen” (Foothills Mountains), and “Küstenlandschaften” (Coastal Landscape) as well as “Mystische Tropfsteinhölen” (Mystical Stalactite Cave), on the other hand hopefully he lets us have a part in his transformations and fundamental change, respective skinning.
Christian Heinrich: Transformation
Kirsten Schwarz, Art historian at the Museum for Contemporary Art, March 2015, Siegen
Paper is the basis material of our knowledge and our creativity. We read, write, paint and draw on paper. Maybe the material paper that surrounds us everyday, and is always available, will actually be replaced by its digital form. In that case will we miss it? Quite certainly the artist will miss it, the ones who are inspired by its material characteristics like Christian Heinrich.
The direct association of paper as an artistic material enables the possibility of complex multi-layered creations other then the sole use as grounding. Artistically paper normally serves as an undercoat and remains in the background, it builds the necessary carrier material for the artist to build his work on. Certainly for the artist searching for completely new creative possibilities, its revealed when he attempts art made from paper. With paper you can fold, crease, crumple, tear, cut, stack layers, glue, moisten, roughen, burn and perforate it. Both this destructive and constructive process nevertheless show directly to new astonishing appearing forms of the material paper.
A great deal of it had already been tried out by Christian Heinrich since 1995 when he discovered paper as his artistic form of expression. In a shop in New York he found a large selection of hand created paper from around the world, and made from the most unusual materials such as elephant dung. The appearance of each paper is individual, the surface structure, the colour, the texture distinguishes itself and gives this unique own characteristic. The isotropy makes out the particular stimulation since every fibre is subject to a coincidental alignment, resulting in a subordinate mixture which displays the stimulation of a haptic perception. Christian Heinrich uses all of these characteristics and underlines them in his picture objects. In spite of manifold deformation and arrangement the structure remains and thereby the characteristic of the material is always preserved. The dimensional and transformation possibilities in the processing of the material are unequally greater then by pure painting. Through the protruding relief resemblance, layer forming, tearing, ripping, wrinkling or pressing, characterize this tactile part of the work process.
From its original two dimensional level surface, through relatively simple actions, paper becomes a three dimensional form. Surfaces of diverse structures are created, that Christian Heinrich additionally works over by impregnating it in oil, or painting it with glue to subsequently apply colour, a covering top coat or glaze. One could say an artistic lamination, but thereby the process still isn't finished. The formed structures now get roughened, scratched, smoothed or scraped. The picture becomes a palimpsest in which the viewer can read like a geologist through a cut in the structures of earth’s layers. Transitory processes become readable. Difficult to decipher meandering, marbling, delicate ramifications come into being, or translucent structures which makes the viewer inquisitive and entices him to an in-depth inspection.
The contents of the works sway between abstract surface treatment and associated landscapes. Blue areas in the upper picture section, earth tones in the lower section. The resulting notion is a view in the landscape without you being able to name a certain place. However at the same time you will also always be confronted again and again with the material, since the contours of the changing surface formations and the frayed edges recall the conditional property of the paper. On several occasions Christian Heinrich visited South Africa and the American South West, whose light conditions and landscape tones appear totally different to those of Central Europe. This play of colours is taken up in several of Christian Heinrich's works, and added into his expressive dimensional style. He sees his own intention in the bundling of memories, impressions and feelings without however becoming to specific with this atmospheric charge. Leeway remains for the viewer's own association.
The colour builds the last layer in the complex work process and at the same the viewers first entry to the picture. Christian Heinrich prefers pastel tones, earth tones and harmonic colours without strong contrast. He employs the colour in order to emphasize the material, here the colour doesn't stand in the foreground. One finds metallic accents which have an effect of shining stars next to plain materials such as jute. The eyes are torn back and forth between the surface structures and the coloured fields. Block like earthbound forms lie next to elements which lose themselves in the painting, or are strewn wafer-thin and weightless, light as a feather. Every surface has its distinctiveness and together they build a harmonious thought through composition. The way to abstraction, so formulated by Christian Heinrich himself, liberates from the accustomed visual structures. The form finding and the ensuing treatment of this characteristic art on its own creative ductus style leads to an individual picture expression that is refined again and again allowing one to continue his thoughts.
There are over 3000 kinds of paper known world wide. One hopes that Christian Heinrich will further more manage to create unexpected and astonishing art out of paper, and not only on paper.
The Exhibition “Horizons” Gallery Ines Schulz, Dresden
Adina Hähnel, Art Historian, October 2006, Dresden
En-route is a poem from Sarah Kirsch.
My body that is my escort
Life long followed
From a dark shadow
Formed like a dog, obsessed
About myself to be
A few words with chalk
On the street, written in
He is also in transit, the Berliner artist Christian Heinrich. Thank God he doesn't write his words with chalk, not on the street, not in the rain. Thank God he writes his words on canvas, on paper, on wood. In brawn and yellow tones, traces of rust, in more colour shaded black and sometimes with sandy material. Christian Heinrich tells us of his travels, invites us to come along on “Familiar Paths”; “Little Dream Journeys.” He recollects for himself, and also if we want for us the onlookers, about Colorado, Manhattan, on Foothills, Coastal Landscapes, Mystical Stalactite Caves and a State of Rapture. We don't need to follow these path indicators, we can search for our own pathway. To be sure it certainly won't be easier. Heinrich averts a quick glance. Whoever wants to understand him, literally in the true sense of the word needs time. Time to immerse in an infinitely seemly appearing world. How else shall one understand these abstract pictures of a traveller that refer to nothing only themselves? Of their beauty, their composure, of their eloquent silence.
What does Christian Heinrich offer us for help? Secrets; old walls, moss like braid, cracks and splits in dry earth, rugged cliffs and a bewitching light, yellow, hot, shimmering, a lame dusty surrealistic atmosphere lays itself over the picture. Everything appears blurred but still then completely clear with an incredible brilliance; in other words collage per-excellence. Hand scooped paper of different types and origin soaked in oil, immersed in glue, torn, wrinkled, crumpled and singed. Precisely applied colour layers and yet these are again processed, scraped, scratched, smoothed, maltreated and carefully shoved together or stretched up to the tearing point. The results are areas, layers of seemingly time passages. If one didn't know better one could believe to stand in front of an excavation field, one literally sees the archaeologist how they uncover the brittle earth layer for layer, knock off the soil extracting an artefact in hours of long laborious work. The surface of these collagen seem encrusted, stiff and scared. One would like to touch them to see if the impression is a deception or true. Are these relief soft, crystalline, rugged, moist or greasy, and when not what then?
The Berliner is a master of suggestion. His pictures draw you into their spell. They are detached, restrained and cautious. Yes restrained and frightening subtle. Look for yourself at the “Red Rapture”. Please look at it carefully. You penetrate and loose yourself, your view becomes wider and wider. Suddenly you are in the middle of a sea of flames and you can't escape, when you really dare to intrude an escape in no longer possible, you will consume yourself in the heat.
One should definitely ask Christian Heinrich afterwards why he exposed himself to this blazing fire, why is he doing that to us. The Berliner born in 1957 studied Art History, Archaeology, and Journalism before he turned to Art with studies at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin (University of Art). The Master Student of Professor Herbert Kaufmann already had an early interest for interdisciplinary works. Mutual theatre projects with the playwright Heiner Müller, and a long standing experience as assistant professor for stage design, technique and character performance at the Academy of Art Berlin. Since 1987 his works have been shown in many individual and group exhibitions in Germany and abroad. Christians Heinrich's travel descriptions are finding due approval by now.
Understandable. Look for yourself at “Night Mirror.” Very black, gray, brown, very earthly, very detached and dangerous. Deep ink black. In this deepness the linear structures. Somehow everything becomes held tight by a firm hand, but simultaneously everything is open. I see the knight of the night, his visor is closed, the view however goes into emptiness. Then again I see mirror over mirror or even streets. Everything is very geometrical, very sorted, in fact like streets, like streets in New York. 1st, 2nd, 3rd street, New York a city created on the drawing board, and also as an oil collage on canvas. That isn't a coincidence. Christian Heinrich was 1995 in New York. There on Broadway he discovered a pile of paper, laid paper out of silk, made of parchment and even elephant dung. There he began his paper collagen.
I would like to introduce you to another work “Magic Cango Cave,” a work on wood from 2001. Also this mystical stalactite cave withdraws itself from a quick glance to classify the stereotypes. Formations in ochre, yellow, black and rust seem to be shoved together. Please look carefully, you can actually see the dripping stones, and not only that you also experience the light and landscape of Southern Africa. This picture is also a travel picture.
The Berliner Christian Heinrich, a traveller, a seeker, a child with open eyes. May he on all his travelled paths always find refuge. May he at least always write a few words with chalk. On the street, even when it rains. His stories are so fascinating. Thank God.
“Like a recipe, suddenly something is created”
Alexandra Beusterien, Art historian, September 2006, Berlin
As a child predominantly a tinker and handicrafts but non-artistic-child. His Mother helped many times when in art class homework was to be handed in, above all in painting and drawing. With his art teacher in high school he drew and sketched for hours in the Berliner Zoo and the botanical garden upon spontaneous request, “so today we are going to paint the tropical rainforest.”
His early works still carry strong politicized features. They predominantly reflect societies decline and the political atmosphere of the 1980's again and again. Troublesome subject matter such as experiments on animals, the increasing destruction of the environment get powerfully and repulsively implemented. The critical realism near, his paintings seem to scream with wild colours to shake up the viewer: “look what's happening be careful with your environment!” Later grew the realization that concentrated suffering evokes aversion and distance with the audience. “Only with this destruction I couldn't go any further. I wanted to show the viewer a positive path!” Away from a traumatizing resignation into a digestible picture statement.
In the eighties the first montage came into being out of newspaper. That was followed by collagen on sand-background, in the nineties with hand-scooped laid-paper, tissue and Japan paper; then in 1999 relief collagen on wood. The crucial point of his fascination for paper was his stay in New York in 1995 where he discovered an El Dorado for paper freaks; a shop with hundreds of different types of paper, some structured like human skin, others resembling bark. Each piece of paper that he incorporates in his works has its own history. The use of paper indicated the global intention of the artist; paper collagen speak a worldwide uniform understandable language. At home in Berlin he meticulously archives things brought back from his journeys; paper of various types and sizes. These souvenirs often wait several years for their usage. In his atelier the paper mounds are clearly structured and neatly stacked. The organising hand of the former archaeology student is unmistakeable. Heinrich termed himself early as a loaner, and even today he always works alone at home in his atelier; working with an association unthinkable. The pieces of paper are often irregularly torn and glued on with bone-glue or epoxy-glue. Not only while applying the oil colour, but while applying the lacquer he works old masterly; the hand-scooped laid-paper pieces are applied layer for layer on the picture carrier upon which which then the thin fluid colour layer lies. This play with different paper types creates mysterious surface areas. Large fibre organic materials, memories of braid-weave, weather worn stone and cracked dried earth invites ones touch.
His works are abstract. Not a single subject is precisely depicted, still however there is a figurative reference available; mostly landscape and city scenery get deciphered. Noticeable is the increased geometrical form language with the imaged dusty alleyways, and the contorted corners of Cape Town. Yet occasionally amorphous forms also come up. They suggest a vague human presence. The colours have the effect of being tranquil and withdrawn; blue in every tone and shade, earthen colours, white and gray tones. They all radiate well balanced calm and tranquillity. Unmistakeable is Heinrich's preference for colour squares of a Marc Rothkos.
From 1995 to 2001 Heinrich did extensive travelling to New York, the South West of the USA, Turkey and longer stays in Cape Town. The African collages reflect the strength of the dark continent again and again. His peaceful surfaces seem to vibrate under the African sun. One believes to recognize wall projections, dusty road surfaces, hut projections full of nooks and crannies in the steaming sunlight. However a large interpretation margin is important for his sensory experiences; of fragrances, half faded memory shreds, sounds and tones to determine the picture. Important is the ease to absorb different impressions, and in his atelier with oil and fine paper turn them into an art work. Like a recipe something suddenly comes into being.
Art-Magazin "Vernissage", Brod-Verlag, Austria
Text: Marlene Jochem, Theodor-Zink-Museum, Kaiserslautern ► download
Translation: Prof. Wilhelm Gauger, Berlin
Editing: Richard Bertelsmann, Cape Town
Christian Heinrich (born in 1957) had already studied history of art, archaeology and journalism when further studies at the University of Arts in Berlin provided the decisive impetus for his artistic career. Of particular interest to him was the overlap and dynamic interaction between the visual arts and the theatre - a focus which he developed in several joint projects with the dramatic author Heiner Müller. For several years Heinrich lectured stage design, stage technology and puppet theatre at Berlin's University of Art, during which time he conceptualised and curated several exhibitions.
As a painter Christian Heinrich uses a highly pronounced and polished visual language of his own invention. His work has been on show in numerous individual and group exhibitions since 1987, both in Germany and abroad.
At first glance Heinrich's collages in oil paint appear to be two-dimensional. However, on closer inspection the spectator becomes aware of a subtle spaciality - a kind of arrested movement on the surface of the paintings, as it were. Several layers of deckle-edged paper, canvas, or wood are applied to a flat base. These materials differ in thickness, quality, and texture and range from thin tissue or rice paper via transparent parchment and solid deckle paper right through to thick African elephant-dung paper. Preserving traces of their raw materials and production processes, these hand-made papers have been variously watered, drenched in oil or steeped in glue and dried in several different ways or even torn, crumpled and partly burnt by the time they find their definitive place in a composition. By these processes clod-like or insular-looking strata of paper emerge from the base, layer by carefully crafted layer.
Once the layers have been stuck to the canvass, either side by side or one above the other, Heinrich applies paint. The paint may link adjoining layers as a homogenizing coat, or it may accentuate the relief-like structure of overlaps between layers. The surface is subsequently subjected to further treatment by scraping or scratching, leaving it rougher or smoother. Parts which are still moist and malleable may either be shifted together more closely, or stretched further apart to the point of tearing. The spatial dimension is thus complemented by a unique surface structure, with textural differences suggesting matter which is variously liquefying or solidifying, dissolving or crystallizing, coagulating or becoming encrusted. Surfaces strike the viewer as smooth or rough, malleable or resistant, oily or powder-dry. Processes of genesis, evolution and decomposition are hinted at - a covert yet apt allusion to the transitory nature of things and the passage of time.
Contrasts and colours interact in a playful, yet controlled way to transform these seemingly amorphous canvass-scapes into perceptively and purposefully constructed compositions. Emphasis on the horizontal dimension is a recurrent feature of Heinrich's paintings, achieving dominance in some of his later work. Square-shaped or oblong blocks, dovetails and mutually enveloping forms create solid, restful structures, all held together in a closed contour. This latter serves not merely as outline, but constitutes a boundary or frame, created from the artist's raw materials in the way set out above. This apparent stasis is unsettled by the dynamic, even violent intrusion of slanting lines, by evanescent flashes bursting into unconfined spaces, and by volcanic matter shattering the borders of closely circumscribed fields.
In the large-scale works of the later period with their bold, large blocks, fascinating colours play an important and unifying role. The secret of their vibrant energy resides not so much in colour contrasts, but rather in their concentration, mood, and mutual intensification. Radiant flashes of yellow and glowing streaks of orange frequently intersect the earthy realm of browns, beiges and greys. Red hues span the whole spectrum from blazing purple to mature violet, while shades of blue vary from light water-blue to the almost-black velvet of a moonless night. Pure, clear tones alternate with blurred areas of uncertain colouring. In the later pictures, which allude to travels in Africa, the colours become more intense, but not necessarily more cheerful or gaudy.
Abstract forms and fields of colour combine to evoke imaginary landscapes, however far these may be removed from any identifiable locations. The structures of the paintings, the textures and colours of the surfaces suggest geo-morphological processes and elementary transformations. The titles Christian Heinrich gives to his works are suggestions full of imaginative allusions, but they are by no means intended to impose restrictive interpretations. Essentially, Heinrich's paintings do not project symbols by the "traditional" means of lines, shapes, and colours. What symbolic meaning there is, resides in the very materiality of these paintings - the papers, paints, and other substances used in their creation.
Not all of Christian Heinrich's creations inhabit this imaginative field. His new series of African pictures, for example, renders topography at several levels simultaneously. Recurrent - and thus central - motifs may be interpreted as signs, but in their identifiably African texture and materiality, they evoke a definite context. In their forms and colours, these paintings allude to landscapes, and - like playing-cards - they present themselves both as images and as symbols. What sets them apart from the serial arbitrariness of playing-cards, and what guards them against mere ornamentality or formalism, is their original power of visualisation, which in turn is intimately embedded in their materiality.
« Pictorial objects made from paper and paint »
Text for the catalogue: Hermann Wiesler
Translation: Prof. Wilhelm Gauger, Berlin
Pieces of handmade paper with rough edge are glued together in order to carry the picture together with oil paint applied to it in multiple strokes and layers - these are the constituents of Christian Heinrich´s work in paper.
His pictorial objects obey their own law, not unlike nature, and they remind us of scientific preparations. Nothing is depicted in a concrete manner. There are no discernable objects. The works are strangely robust, because despite their relatively small sizes they feel weighty when held in our hand; their colouring is reduced, almost diffuse, but is nevertheless intense and emits a shine of its own.
Coincidence and careful planning combine in Christian Heinrich´s work. He glues pieces of paper of diminishing sizes on oblong bases. These scraps of rough-edge, tissue, or Japanese paper have irregular outlines with arbitrarily torn margins. Smaller or larger bits are pasted on the ground with traditional or plastic glue. This colourless composition creates surface tensions leading away from the margin or back to it in five or six layers.
Even during this process Heinrich uses a spatula to spread oil paint on the uneven surface of the paper, sometimes glazing it, sometimes opaque. The spatula as well as the brush are broad. Although the painter will stress some aspects and likes places of concentration as well as of those of thinning out he is by no means a punctilious miniaturist.
The raw cast that has come about this way, the pasted paper, still has this character of a relief, but this is cancelled out by the strength of opaque colouring. Paint is spread over surfaces. There are casts of blue and earthy values in nuances hardly to be enumerated. There are also values of white and grey. The "skin" of all this is tough and covers the whole surface. The overall effect is quiet rather than vivid or hectic. Although it has a bated and contemplative effect it is fully awake. In spite of the peculiar batedness it is all else but tired and passive.
We see immediately how the hand and the brainwork cooperate in this process of painting. We find spontaneous stresses in the compositions of paper as well as of colour, but everything is under control; Heinrich may use scraps of paper, but there is nothing tattered. From a distance his pictures may resemble those of Wols, or Michaux, but they are produced in an easy-going and playful way and under a control that is never cramped. Nor is there any ecstasy, but the quiet assurance of ease. It is just by this quality that the objects achieve a quivering placidity, a subdued nervousness. So a stillness greater in combination with intensity is reached than in self-assertive hectic painting. In this last-mentioned method the moment is stressed, which may make sense allright, but Heinrich trusts in permanence. His work may not depict the immediacy of natural objects, but there are, all the same, reminiscences of the surface of walls, or sunlight broken and reflected by patches on walls, an organic growth of lichen that seems to grow out of the paper piecemeal, not unlike a palimpsest.
This clearness in diffuseness appeals to us. The suggestive power of mixed values could never have been achieved if Heinrich were an action painter or a pointillist. In preferring the subdued, the suspension of everything hectic, he conveys to his pictures a long wind and their firm, although never self-assertive vitality. Characteristic of them are the opposition as well as the cooperation of subtle interior structures, the condensations achieved by a sudden tearing apart of colour together with the sonorous sound of colouring along wider spaces. Homogeneity is reached by avoiding harshly conducted and framing lineatures and by a selective use of mixed values; this extends itself across all the tensions in colour and composition.
The diffuse element in Heinrich´s pictures is expressed in a matter-of-fact and concrete way. Neither the paper nor the colour indulge in twilight or a suggestive emphasis. Well, every artist and every art need pictures preceding their own ones, which they have to work against and find their way away from, so Heinrich appreciates the pictorial worlds of Marc Rothko, Emil Schumacher, Fred Thieler. Thus one of the central achievements of modern art becomes visible in Heinrich as well: the powerful effect of artistically instrumentalized colour on a limited surface.
Heinrich´s paintings teach or proclaim No-Thing; as a consequence they are meaning-less, they point out no contents except themselves. It is just their artistry that counts. This way every picture is sure of it own value in itself. That is why each of these pictures implies a challenge for the beholder so as to encourage for his own eye-sense the pictorial worlds implanted in himself.
There is no spatial depth achieved by perspective. It is only by occasional lightening of colour that space is suggested in some pictures, so as to let us imagine a dividing-line that may suggest a horizon. Beholders are free to play with these phenomena. Above and below cannot always be discerned unambiguously since Heinrich treats the surfaces of his pictures by turning them around. This is another challenge for beholders to define a picture for themselves.
What does this look like in detail? Three examples may serve as illustrations:
Detail of View III, 1997
Two pieces of paper, mounted upon a larger one, remind us of a still-life with a book. The two surfaces appear as two empty pages. If the broadside is turned around its vertical axis in a way so as to bring the light-coloured "page" to the left and the right-hand one into suspension with a bias to the margin, then - that´s the way I see it - the picture is made alive in a balanced tension. Grey, yellow, and white hues predominate. Freely wandering fissures brace the inner centre and the whole surface by connecting the margins of the "book" with those of the picture. Since every form is also defined by its margins we also become aware of Heinrich´s method to make his colour values vibrate out of the picture or into it at the same time.
Sense of Snow, 1997
A "wedge" of coarse-fibred material dominating the surface rests on the centre of the picture. It is through the power of its pictorial effect that its fine organic material hardens: so the effect is that of a rocket-like ascending or an aggressively falling element accompanied by double lines of force. Lines of impetus push upwards. Bow-waves or pillars of pressure push downwards. It makes no sense to speculate on the size of the "wedge". The painting is no miniature. But it demonstrates to us how Heinrich succeeds in achieving the monumental effect of a picture without any gigantesque effort.
California Highway, 1998
Rusty-coloured grass-cloth indicating a sky over a high horizon. "Infinite" wideness of a desert without perspective, no vegetation, sand, fissures in drying soil. The colour sounds yellowish and brownish near the centre. Purple rust above, grey-black below, they also permit us to think of a rapid drive along a wall unwinding without focus in yellow or brown.
No need to look for contents hidden everywhere as in a picture-puzzle. Christian Heinrich´s pictures have no graspable, literary, or anecdotal meaning. But they open up a tackling way of seeing.
Translation: Prof. Wilhelm Gauger, Berlin
« Last not least it is the mysterious surfaces of the papers treated this way that remind us of old walls or excavations. We see poetical pictures concerned with the measure of time, which in its turn is defined by transformation ».
Klaus Zimmer in Deister- und Weserzeitung, Oct.28, 1992
« In Heinrich´s latest works the surfaces seem to expend so that they become centres explored from inside. The external world lies on the ground of the canvas. All the fragmented materials are integrated into the whole of the picture. The widened space offers a sheltered world, but time and again also permits explorations, a strolling around in which openings and vistas are revealed. It seems as if we could take our time or walk at leisure. It is the breath of a calm ».
Iris Billaudelle, March 1993
« But he still enjoys that happiness he finds, hidden and obvious, within matter, a happiness that plays with the diverse pieces of paper and the transparency of coloured glazes. These pictures correspond to the sensuousness of gourmets; they are unexpected compositions of quite a special "juice" ».
Klaus Zimmer in Deister- und Weserzeitung, Apr.16, 1996
« And in a way comparable to history and nature when consumed by time, the works of the artist are submitted to an artificial ageing process. The artist is very observant when looking out for traces, he finds stories and events, and is aware of the weathering of stones, mossy lichens, cracks and fissures in dry soil, uses them as metaphors of death, but nevertheless knows that a new life will follow them as well ».
Helga Köbler-Stählin, Passagen, May 1997
« Nevertheless he feels it is important not to produce anything arbitrary. Even if this does not reveal itself at first sight he says that "political element in art is important for me even today". He wants to show this, however, by subtler means. The pictures are meant to leave positive impressions and impulses for reflection ».
Thomas Brückelmeier in Die Rheinpfalz, Sep.5, 1997
« In his later work Heinrich gives a wide berth to contrasts of this kind; it looks as if he were aiming at an equal toning of quiet surfaces. They evoke the imagination of landscapes, of landscapes at the same time imaginary, vanished, and permanent, a past found again in stones and earth as a projection of melancholy yearning. These colours have a depth that reminds us of the old masters ».
Heike Marx in Die Rheinpfalz, Sep.17, 1997