‘For the past few years, Dutch artist Harma Heikens has been drawing on subjects from the edge of our consumer society. She reveals that which is not usually clearly visible in a world that is obsessed by a flawless exterior. It’s the flip side of things that matters to her, as illustrated by an early drawing of “bambi’, not cute at all but throwing up violently. This hidden truth is in the distortion of what should be beautiful and whole, like the bust of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, her perfect skin covered in sores (or are they zits she’s scratched open?). Heikens takes a sardonic pleasure in tranforming clichés, by undermining the traditional meaning of the toy figures and dolls we know from childhood. Their hidden horrors become visible. She does this with gusto and imagination, and with a lot of conviction. Her latest work is a good example of this. It refers to a consumerism gone haywire, in which people as well as things have a market value. Youth and beauty, though transitory, have become commodities that only the happy few can afford to buy.
‘Harma Heikens wants to show us that all around us monsters are reaching out to youthful beauty in order to feed on it, hoping to regenerate what has been lost. They refuse to believe that there are things that aren’t actually for sale. The work touches on the age-old theme of the battle between thanatos and eros as it manifests itself in modern society. Heikens, with her playful yet forceful imagery holds up a mirror to us all.’ — Margriet Kruyver, aeroplastics contemporary
‘To compare and contrast cute with confrontational is a typical and all too simple response when observing one of Harma Heikens’ near life-size sculptures for the first time. True, they are confrontational but the larger than life charm of Harma’s arrangements are powerfully thought-provoking allegories; Her description of her work is precise and understated. “I’m not into telling people that they see things the ‘wrong’ way,” says the Netherland artist. “When I make a sculpture of, say, a Latin-American or Asian looking child in horrible circumstances it is perceived as social criticism, but when I make a sculpture of a white child in a similar situation it is perceived as apocalyptic. That doesn’t feel good and it is confrontational in itself (for whoever wants to see it), but there’s no way of avoiding it. The images I work with sort of pre-exist in people’s minds. It works the same way for me.”
‘And therein lies one of the most appealing aspects of Heikens’ work. It’s not a soapbox stance, but she doesn’t resort to ’leaving it all up to the viewer’ either. What we make of it is an amalgamation of artist intention and our own built-in perceptions culled from our own reference banks.
‘Accessorized with familiar common-place objects these sculptures speak to us using our own universal language: a trash bag, a soda can, a sweater emblazoned with branded apparel. Even their cuteness is part of that language. It coaxes an examination of the debasement of our culture, our societies, our place in time, how far we’ve come – or regressed.’ — Annie Owens
Harma Heikens Official Website
HH @ Witzenhausen Gallery
‘Paradise Lost: The Works of Harma Heikens’
The Malformed Kitsch of Harma Heikens’
HH interviewed @ Castle Magazine
‘tweeenentwintig beelden: harma heikens’
Noorderzon doet geen aangifte na dreigement
HARMA HEIKENS Firestarter unboxing by Toy Qube at My Silk Screen Print Shop
q)How did you get started making art?
a)I’ve been making things as long as I remember, but didn’t think that had anything to do with “art”. I always wanted to be an artist, though; I imagined that I would be painting large abstract canvasses when I grew up.
q)How would you describe your art?
a)Don’t know.Conceptual cartoonism? I hope it’s sort of direct. The process of making these things is rather time-consuming, I do four or five pieces a year.
q)Where do you get the inspiration for your art?
a)The newspapers, b-movies, t.v.commercials and everyday life.
q)What other artists inspire you?
a)Writers like for instance Elfride Jelinek, Michel Houllebecq and Douglas Coupland, grafic novelists like Charles Burnes and Daniel Clowes, film directors like Lucas Moodysson and a lot of other visual artists, too many to mention, not always the ones that make work simular to mine, it is more about an attitude.
q)What is your main medium of choice?
a)Sculpture and installation. The sculpture is mostly made of light-weight synthetics (all water-based and friendly to the environnement).
q)What are you working on now?
a)An installation in collaboration with a poet. It is about consumerism and child-prostitution.
q)Almost every artist has a special “mission”, a message they want to deliver or actions they want to provoke with their work. What’s your mission?
a)That’s a tough one. If I knew what the exact message was I don’t think there would be a need to make the work anymore … But, If I must, shortly: The message would be that life’s a bitch, and my mission to sort out who or what’s to blame. Without any result so far.
q)Your artworks often feature children in a context of violence, dirt and sex – they don’t fail in provoking unease and disgust in the viewer. How were your personal feelings during the working process?
a)I can get emotional or upset, but not all of the time. A single piece takes several months to make so that would be rather unpleasant. Sometimes I enjoy working on it in a malicious kind of way, but mostly I’m preoccupied with formal and technical issues.
q)Do those images come from personal experiences (e.g. travels to third world countries) or are they a product of your imagination / from watching the news / from listening to stories from friends/acquaintances?
a)It depends; some works are inspired by watching the news, some by disaster movies, some by everyday life: You don’t have to travel to a third world country to see people suffer. But mostly the images arise from the working process itself. It’s not just about what you see, but what it stands for. I’m always looking for images that can also serve as a metaphor. And of course the themes I choose orginate in personal experience, like with any other artist.
p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Indeed, re: Czech cinema. I didn’t watch the Oscars. Demented seems like it would be a plus in that context? I’m getting to be the last person on earth who hasn’t seen ‘Parasite’, but, given everything, there’ll obviously be a million chances to now. ** KK, Hey, man! Really good to see you! ‘DotN’ is pretty great, I think, and maybe you’ll think. Yes, very saddened about Guyotat. Great idea: your marathon ‘EEE’ reading. Whoo-hoo! Excellent about the Hobart acceptance! That’s excellent news. Obviously, hook me/us up when the time arrives. I’m pretty good, busy with whatever, as usual. Houellebecq: mm, I’ve never been fully convinced. He can write and think interestingly and on his own, for sure. But I kind of stopped reading him a few books ago. I got tired of his schtick. Here he’s kind more of a celebrity than a serious writer at this point, always doing what it takes to be in the news, on TV yapping about whatever’s current all the time, … I’m kind of bored with him and his controversy baiting. But, you know, he can write and distinctly and all that. Hope you keep staying afloat. Any movies that have blown you away recently? ** Corey Heiferman, Hi. Oh, thanks. Nice, thank you, re: the link. I wonder why I missed that in the post making. Everyone, the honorable Corey Heiferman presents a link to a Nemec film that I neglected to include in the post — his 1975 television Kafka film ‘F. Kafka’nın eseri Dönüşüm’. Surely worth a watch. Do so here. Reading is good. Generally, at least in recent times, I’m reading a few books any the same time, I guess. Never used to do that. But there are so many new books I want to read these days that I kind of have to. And it works. Very cool that you’re a juror in that festival supporting the young and aspiring. Uh, hm, no overt comedies that I can think of. I saw a newish short James Benning collaborated film with some other filmmaker called ‘Stihle’ (sp?) the other night, and I thought it was hilarious. But no comedies with a capital C. Well, here’s hoping her heart tilts towards you without a fatality, or, well, at least without a fatality for which you are proven responsible. ** _Black_Acrylic, It’s a goodie. ** Paul Curran, Hi, Paul! Very excellent to see you, man! We won’t get to Japan in March. Stuff came up here. April seems highly possible. It’s still un-worked out. Zac has been out of town for a bit, and we’re going to get cement-y about the trip as soon as he gets back. Yay about the imminent reprint! I’ll go find a page for it. Yes!!!!! Oh, man, thank you, I’m super extremely honored that you’re doing that linguistics paper on ‘MLT’. I would so love to read it at some point. That’s amazing, thank you. That’s one of my favorites of my novels, and it’s kind of the most lost in the world of my novels. Thank you, Paul!!! ** JM, Hi, J. I’m glad to hear the posts are successfully inputting. Interesting about your human animal binary interest. That’s exciting. I don’t know ‘The Leftovers’, but I’ll hunt it, as it were. Yes, it is a mega-relief to literally not have to think about that fucking TV script for at least six weeks. I hardly know what to do with myself. ‘Sola Virgo’. I like that title, and, yeah, very happy that’s a solid go. And possibly as soon as June! Crazy. And that’s exciting about you working on a total fiction project. How does that feel? Or I mean is it a voice you feel at home in from the outset, or feel fruitfully scared by, or … ? I’m not fond of the French time minister whatsoever. No one here is. Many problems there, perhaps most personally to me his attempts to cut back on cultural funding. Like Gisele has never had big problems getting funding for her work since she’s easily one of France’s most successful theater makers, but Macron’s Culture Minister is making her jump through hoops and threatening to withhold funding that she would usually get without a thought. No, he’s no good. He’s not a psycho, evil Trump type, but still. ** Misanthrope, I’m actually surprised people even know who Kinkade is at this point. He seems like a very faded pop culture reference point. Well, a new way of figuring out titles is only good. Putting your imagination on its toes. That’s good, and you’ll sort it. No sweat. ** Steve Erickson, Yes, his post-exile films seem to mystify most of his admirers, and he doesn’t seem to be able to explain the change/drop off, at least in the interviews I read with him. Very best of luck with the tests and consultation tomorrow. ** Bill, No, the crazy weather was really beautiful. Yeah, I mean, there’s the ‘uh oh’ re: global warming part, and northern France got pretty trounced, but here in the big P its spookiness was exhilarating. You definitely want to start with the early Němec films. The later ones are a pretty serious drop off. You’re constantly introducing me to the names of writers I don’t know. Ewald Murrer: I will find out what he does and is. Thank you kindly. Oh, wow, the gig video is up! Everyone, Really big treat alert. The sound/visual artist Bill Hsu whom you comment readers know best as ‘Bill’ just recently performed in a radio-based festival called KZSU Day of Noise 2020, and his performance is up online and ready to be heard. He’s amazing, and it’s a rare situation where those of us outside his native San Francisco get to hear his work, so please accept the imperative gift of listening in. Right here. Cool, can’t wait, thanks, B! ** Right. I decided on a whim to give a galerie show to the Dutch artist Harma Heikens. See if her work tickles your fancy. See you tomorrow.