What happens when we look at a painting and then try to remember that first encounter years later? Are we not surprised at how our recollections of our approach to the image and our interpretation of it have changed over the years?
Berlin, Shanghai, Bangkok, Beijing – In search of his own unique position, his own language, Sebastian Heiner’s artistic practice consists of frequent journeys and changing locations. Uprooting and unfamiliarity serve as artistic and psychological challenges. Heiner methodically seeks existential confrontation, which finally manifests itself in the artist’s work as a powerful yet playful dispute. The paintings represent an ongoing challenge, a continuous grappling with the “other” while in search of oneself. Francois Jullien’s philosophical approach “from the other to the self” serves as backdrop for Heiner’s work.
On one of my visits to Sebastian Heiner’s studio in the summer of 2015, I asked the artist at what point he was satisfied with a painting. When he had stopped “at the right moment”, he replied. Not prepared for a more specific response, I wondered, however, what that “right moment” meant. I came upon a more detailed answer in an interview with the artist, printed in an exhibition catalogue from 2001: “I consider a painting finished when I find inner peace; when form and colour have reached a balance, opposites have come together to form a unity and have created a composition.”
Some art historians search for artworks to illustrate their theories, while others attempt to unveil the artists’ ideas contained within the artworks. The former favour their own theories and often overlook the artworks’ unique quality; the latter consider the artworks themselves, predominantly understanding the works from the artists’ perspective. As may become apparent through my wording, I prefer the second approach for my undertaking, as I believe the works exist for themselves and for the viewer. Scholars’ major theories are interesting constructs, however, they are seldom helpful in understanding individual artworks and their impact, which to me seems to be the starting point of all art.