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Meet SOFT? artist: Kati Heck

Frederik Vercruysse

Kati Heck creates sculptural installations, short films and monumental paintings. In her visual language, Heck blends and merges the style of the Old Masters with German artists such as Otto Dix and Georg Grosz. Heck’s paintings show her personal universe, with a colourful compilation of life size characters out of her direct environment, alternating with absurd words and slogans.

In paintings like ‘Dreimal Selbst mit Magier’, the painting’s canvas literally comes out to the foreground. The canvas seems to come to life by cascading out of its rigid frame into a luscious three-dimensional drapery. Which role does the canvas play in your work?

For me, the process of painting starts by stretching my canvas. Because the size of the hemp cloth I use cannot be produced, every cloth has to be sewn manually to get the right size. Sometimes I already have an idea about how the canvas has to come together, or how it will cascade outside its frame. It is often rather coincidental or precisely because of the ‘accidents’ during the sewing or stretching process that new ideas arise. What also excites me are added sculptural elements: for example, when I attach cup holders to the canvas or when branches are sticking out wearing lampshades.

Kati Heck, ‘Schutzengel of Painting’, 2015

How do soft sculptures such as ‘Schutzengel of Painting’ show up in your work?

These fabric sculptures complete my Kati-world. Some subjects need to be painted and others ask for a different approach. Making a sculpture is a completely different process than painting, and I need that. I usually work with other people and I enjoy these collaborations.

Kati Heck, ‘Schutzengel of Painting’, 2015
Stany Dederen

These sculptures often lie decapitated on the ground. Do you purposefully seek that contrasting gruesome yet cuddly look in your sculptures?

Oh, I do not think these works are very gruesome. Horror is something else. A tongue as a red carpet to the head, or a body part not wanting to belong to its torso are things that you could also encounter in everyday life. Sculptures also have feelings and who does not want to be cuddled?

Initially you came to Antwerp with the intention of studying fashion, but later enrolled for an education as a painter. Is your interest in fashion still present in your work?

My fascination for fashion is still standing. You are able to reinforce an attitude or feeling through a certain fabric, colour or cut. If I have to think of an example in painting, it would be the well-known self-portrait of Christian Schad, where he is sitting in front of a naked woman wearing a transparent green shirt. The painting and the mystery accompanying it are determined by this shirt. In the past, and even today, I have collaborated a lot with former fashion students, for example in Bissy Bunder (a former performance group) or with Jelle Spruyt who, along with Tina Schott and many other dear helpers, made the large installation ‘Maler-Muse’ in M HKA. They know perfectly how to treat a fabric, how to drape it and what the possibilities are. I more often use their collections as outfits for my models or myself. These are often pieces of clothing carrying a great sense of humour. Certain fabrics are very pleasant to paint. Recently, I used a beautiful old kimono for a man in my painting. The fabric tells the story of the Westerners first coming to Japan with large ships. I find these additional stories told by clothing and fabrics very important in my work.

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