Angela Heisch

Angela Heisch is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York.   She was born in New Zealand, and was raised in Buffalo, New York.  Angela attended SUNY Potsdam, where she received her Bachelors in Fine Arts in 2011.  She then went on to attend the University at Albany, where she received her Masters in Fine Arts in 2014. Angela has partaken numerous times in the SUNY Best in Show exhibit in Albany, New York.  Over the past year she has had solo shows in Troy, New York, as well as Middleburg, New York.  This past summer, Angela was a fellow at the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts Residency.  This past year, she was a Dedalus fellow and recipient of the Dedalus Foundation’s MFA Painting and Sculpture Fellowship.


These paintings are intended to present the viewer with a series of arrangements and confrontations.  With the use of line, gesture, shifts in texture, gradients, as well as elements of illusion, these works are a depiction both of moments of happenstance and intentionality.  A conversation takes place between such visual elements through vague spaces, windows, arrangements, transpositions, intrusions and obstructions.

Specific color schemes are intended to provide the notion of origin of mark or space; an offering of narrative.  The contradiction of revealing and concealing leaves the viewer with both an over abundance and withholding of information.  The primary use of line represents fragments of a disrupted grid system, in which the singular identity of a line is threatened.  By isolating and often objectifying line, a new kind of coherence begins to take place; and although vague, is seemingly absolute.  This separation gives the possible perception of a symbolic or iconic presence, though leaving the making of its meaning ultimately unrestricted. 

Q&A with Angela Heisch
by Emily Burns

Hi Angela! Can you give us some insight into your process? How do you begin and how do you create your compositions?
For the most part my process is an intuitive one.  Usually this involves a few ideas, such as color restrictions and combinations I might give myself, or something the painting will feature (such as a shape that looks as if it's in motion, is standing up right, or is covered in specks). 

I usually begin with an underpainting of bright washy colors often full of texture. These colors and textures are then covered up, and re-emerge much later in the process.  I like how the unveiling of this forgotten and often incompatable component throws me a bit off course. Its funny, most of the time these areas are pushed to the far background, covered up, or in the end aren't all that noticeable; but it never fails to force me to change directions, or at least avoid heading in such a straight line. 

My compositions are ultimately the result of revealing and concealing; pulling things forward, pushing things back.  For the most part, this involves taking information away, such as blackening out a once brightly colored line, or covering an entire space with these linear systems I've been working with lately. This could involve placing an object in complete and utter darkness or obstructing it with some obtuse, blocky shape.  On the other hand, it could involve covering an entire picture with tightly compacted linear systems that lend the notion of a space existing behind a veil or set of blinds.

Does drawing play a part in your initial process?
Thats a tricky question to answer. I feel as though I'm drawing more with paint, than I am painting with paint.  So in a way drawing is a massive part of my process, with line being such a recurring and important component of my paintings.

Specifically in my thesis work, which were these large charcoal drawings, I would draw out compositions and then sort of fill them in.  I've never been good at sticking to any sort of plans within my work. Even in these drawings I'm referring to, there was a great deal of shifting that took place compositionally from start to finish. In very recent paintings I've been mapping things out a little.  So far it hasn't stuck, but we'll see.

Are you using any type of stencil/masking technique when painting?
Throughout a painting I'll usually alternate between hand drawn line/gesture and masked, blocky shapes.  I do a good deal of the masking especially in the early stages of painting—masking and then revealing those underpainting parts I was referring to earlier.  

Can you talk a bit about the importance of color and texture in your work?
I think pretty often about how to limit my colors.  After making work in black and white for so long, I really began to enjoy the information a lack of color left out, and the sort of questions that might arise: is this an abstract still life of elements only within a specific color scheme? Or is it an abstraction of color that occurs during the process?  

I think about vibrancy and luminosity of color, viewing the color as a singular light source that emits radiance without much affect on it's surroundings.

Texture is pretty important in defining origin of mark or object—how something of a different texture or surface is conceived as a transplant, like it was picked up and moved into the space in front of me.

I noticed that one of your paintings was titled "Salad Fingers" and I couldn't help but wonder if if was based in the weird old animations from around 2005? 
Ha! It actually wasn't, though it was definitely an after thought.  The title more or less came from a knee-jerk association I had with some of the elements of that painting. The sort of warm and wilted aspects of it, and the concealed bed of green everything sits on top of.  Nonetheless, it doesn't bother me that most everyone will have that weird bummer of a cartoon flash across their mind when they see the title to this painting.

What is a typical day like for you? 
During the week I work mostly at night teaching painting classes around Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Usually on a spare day of the week, I'll go in and assist the artist I work for in Ridgewood, Queens.  So this gives me some time during most days to spend in the studio. I don't think I have too much consistent structure to my studio time, with my studio in my apartment I also tend to work on a painting here and there whenever I have spare time.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you have overcome as an artist so far in your career?
Those have definitely been in the past few years.  I finished my MFA in 2014 and was lucky enough to have a few residencies right out of grad school.  My time with the Dedalus Foundation just ended last May of 2015, and the biggest challenge by far has been moving my studio space into my apartment.  I've never been very good at a work and live situation, so the past six months has been a big change. It's hard to remove myself from my living environment, and submerge into work mode.  

I've had to scale my work WAY down—the ability to make larger work in the past really had me used to a certain kind of process, approach, and just physically moving around a whole lot more.  It was easy to become consumed in what I was making, and feel as though I was really face to face with my work.  Working at a much smaller scale has forced me to become very physically still in the way I work.  I've taken to sitting down while painting because it forces me to be with my paintings, retain concentration (which I think is crucial in making work that has little to no premeditation), while putting me in a situation where I can't ignore what's in front of me.

Can you describe your studio space? What are your most important workspace essentials?
That's changed a good deal over the past few years—while I was in grad school, and the residencies, my studio space just had to have a decent amount of wall space.  While I was making really large work, the space around me didn't matter so much, because I spent most of the time consumed with and existing in the virtual space of my paintings and drawings.  

Now that my work is much smaller, and my studio is in my apartment, I've found the space I work in needing to be much more enjoyable to be in.  So as of right now, it's a desk, good light, a cart of paint, some plants, and a token sheep skin rug.

What do you listen to while you work? Is this an important part of your practice?
I used to not be able to work without music, specifically headphones.  But that got a little distracting at some point.  As of late it's anything from nothing, to the WNYC, podcasts, music, or Seinfeld.

Has there ever been a book/essay/poem/film/etc that totally changed or influenced you? What are you reading right now?
Hm, I'm sure there's many that don't specifically come to mind, but in grad school we read Rosalind Krauss' essay on Grids, and that certainly influenced my work a great deal.  

Also this "Industrial Style and Source Book For the Home" called "High-Tech"  It's a really tasty picture/catalog book of late 1970's industrial-chic interiors.  It also has a great array of flattened out but graphic images of staircases, lamps, storage, chairs, textured glass and metal; that sort of thing.  

Right now I'm reading "Paradise Now" by Chris Jennings.

What are some of the artists that you look at that you feel your work is in dialogue with?
Hm, to name a few artists I'm looking at: Keltie Ferris, Allison Miller, Sharah Hughes, Ray Yoshida, Paul DeMuro, Jonathan Lasker, Clint Jukkala, Roger Brown, Matt Kleberg.

Do you have any advice for recent grads that are looking for teaching jobs, transitioning out of graduate school, or looking to begin their career as studio artists?
I'm not sure I have much to say on this subject that others haven't already figured out. Look for jobs outside of what you might normally consider.  Don't be too hard on yourself, be patient, but don't stop making work.

What is the best recent exhibition you have seen?
By a landslide, Jonathan Lasker at Cheim & Read.  Also recently Ray Yoshida at David Nolan and Alison Miller at Susan Inglett.

What is your relationship with social media as an artist?
I really love Instagram as a platform for artists.  I've found so many great artists just bumbling around on there, and it's such a great way for artists to catalog their work and recent shows they've seen (and cats, life, etc.).

So many galleries are finding artists through social media now and it really gives a leg up in uniting the very small but relatively spread out art community. Living in New York for example, I'm unable to see the shows I would love to see in Los Angeles, but can usually find a good deal of photos people have shared on Instagram. It makes a tremendous difference to have so much in one place. The internet is this one place where we all are, which is pretty cool.

Do you have any exciting news or shows coming up?
No up and coming shows but I'm working on a zine featuring some recent paintings and possibly pen and ink drawings through Wing Club Press, run by Jimmy Viera and Andrew Scripter in Portland, Maine.

Thanks so much for sharing you work and talking with us!

To find out more about Angela's work, check out the artist's website.