Wax-covered drawings that appear soft, tender, almost hidden. They withdraw themselves from the observer, yet tempt him through the emerging objects from their nebulous surroundings. The work of the Berlin Artist Heike Jeschonnek is multi-layered. The artist draws figures into softened paraffin that she spreads on the canvas, architecture and landscapes. The process of cutting into the canvas evokes a searching into the past.

Through the scratched wounds on the surface of the canvas, another layer of paraffin is spread. They are coloured and then covered again with wax like a healed wound or a tattoo that reveals its remaining colours or scars. An image is created behind. Colour is used sparingly and, mostly, the lines of the drawings stays in the foreground. Some paintings are coloured. In others, she uses coloured wax.

What at first sounds simple, develops through the extensive layers of wax to expand into a delicate poetic and fascinating expressive fabric. The surface of the art work holds the viewers at a distance and lets them anticipate the motif, like looking through a veil of fog which prompts us to take a closer look. The wax used in the paintings has its own quality which challenges our viewing habits, having us question closeness and distance, focused or blurred, comprehensible or illusive, permanence or transience. The clarity of the viewer is put into question through the breaks, layers, haziness, and displacements in the paintings.

Visualizing from her memories, Jeschonnek broaches the area of conflict between subject, object and environment/surrounding, spaces and architecture. Through these displaced memories, she creates new visual premises in which the subjects try to assert themselves. Instability and uncertainty envelops the spaces, in which their subjects seem insecure and isolated, generating doubts about their identities.

Often there are almost banal everyday motifs that through the artist’s method seem poetic. Abstractness is confronted with concrete images. The layers of wax serve the purpose of masking the surroundings, the artist allows only distinct elements to appear on the surface. While searching for a new dimension for her paintings, Heike discovered the effect of using molten paraffin. The fragility of her paintings, due to the brittle substance of dried wax, becomes like an allegory for the vulnerability of subject and object, even the surrounding area seems fragile and perishable.

In her earlier works, Heike Jeschonnek composed paintings using familiar Berlin buildings, cityscapes and interiors. Seldom were there any people to be seen, and if there was any person being depicted they would seem isolated in a misanthropic, almost dangerous surrounding of a city.

Through recent trips to Asia and Africa her paintings have come to include new areas of conflict and narrative elements. The Asian paintings remind us of the traditional depiction of far eastern landscapes: figures materialize in nondescript foggy fields. Through very light white image areas fragments of figures and landscapes appear. In contrast, there are other works that show people in the foreground doing their daily chores like fetching water or transporting goods with their boots. Fine lines are drawn through the painting almost disappearing into the pale colourless background. The African paintings show, in part, very concrete motifs, that are suspended in an almost surreal surrounding evoking a mysterious atmosphere: figures that are walking on huge balls across the landscape, fieldworkers that are prone to be drawn into an ocean of colour. Like the diffuse drawing of the figures themselves, the painting, as it presents itself, leaves the viewer with a vague impression.

The impressions from travelling to foreign cultures evoke a long lost past, which is, nonetheless, still reality in some places. The artist establishes a distinct connection between space and time.

Heike Jeschonnek has set out on the quest for memories and tries to capture evanescent moments. In the words of the Berlin art historian Angelika Sommer, she tries to gather “disappearing memories and transient impressions by using a time catalyst. That is the moment when new insights about the essence behind the surface spring forth.”

She searches for a symbiotic relationship between material and motif. The sensual effect of paraffin allows the drawings to seem fragile and unclear. They become the expression of a permanent search for dissipating memories.

by Dr. Mayarí Granados, March 2010
Art historian (Landesverband Lippe)
translation Johannes Hampel and Anna Cussen