Kati Heck: Heimlich Manoeuvre at Sadie Coles HQ, Kingly Street

The Sadie Coles Gallery in Kingly Street is currently staging Kati Heck’s glorious exhibition ‘Heimlich Manoeuvre’. This is Heck’s first exhibition at Sadie Coles and her first solo presentation in London. The exhibition consists of six large paintings, as well as a video installation.

The six expansive paintings are encased in a hexagonal space, creating a close and intimate experience for visitors. The plush thick carpet on the floor invites viewers to sit down and relax while they admire Heck’s stunning works. The command ‘Horch!’ is written across the carpet, commanding viewers to ‘Listen!’ which relates back to the writing printed on the wall outside the hexagonal escape, ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ which is a six-part symphony in which Chinese poems from the Tang dynasty are set to music. Heck has created paintings from the folk songs, and the antique poems behind them are conjured into dramatic scenes and enigmatic characters.

The series of paintings include themes of loneliness, youth, beauty, drunkenness, and separation. The figures Heck has depicted in her paintings all feature distorted body parts, with swollen limbs, feet and hands. The paintings, while generally flat on large-scale canvases, incorporate small areas of three dimensional works. In one painting, a barefoot woman is seen in a dark forest, full of mystery and horror. The woman is sporting two heads, one appearing more masculine than the other, clothed in a sheer pink jumpsuit, something that doesn’t quite fit with the surroundings. The woman’s shadow is visible but it is not reflecting what the body is doing and appears as more of a menacing attachment to the woman, rather than part of her. Over the woman’s shoulder, a figure lurks in the background, surrounded by flames, as though appearing from the fiery depths of hell. In the corner, a tree trunk lies on the forest floor and the word ‘Bingo’ is written across the trunk, hidden amongst the patterns in the bark. ‘Bingo’ has been applied to the painting in almost a thick papier-mâché style.

The word ‘Bingo’ is also featured in a painting that shows a man and a woman lounging in the grass, with a scroll flowing between them, and a bird perched on the woman legs. The man is wearing a sheer vest top covered with a pink floral pattern, while the woman sports a pink lace bodysuit with sheer leggings made of ivy, coating her legs. Beneath the grass is a sickly green reflection of the couple. However it has slight differences when viewed more intensely. The woman is no longer wearing her ivy leggings, the bird no longer perched on her legs, and the man is no longer wearing his floral vest, which has been replaced by a plain shirt.

‘Heimlich Manoeuvre’ is a visual representation of having one drink too many. It is a physical manifestation of the last shot that knocks you over the edge in the dark abyss of drunkenness. These are the paintings that while incredibly beautiful and breathtaking, will also give you nightmarish flashbacks to times you wish you had forgotten. The scenes are filled with lush colours and poignant atmosphere, and viewers can almost here fantastical music playing in their head, or the hustle and bustle of a bar, or the gentle sounds of summer breeze. The paintings are magnificent and painstakingly detailed, but that detail is coupled with the horrific scenes that makes viewers almost wish they were a little less high definition, much like the memories of those sore drunken nights they represent.

Kati Heck: Heimlich Manoeuvre is on at Sadie Coles HQ, Kingly Street until 10th February.  More information may be found here.