Kati Heck’s work, monumental, heroic, enigmatic, funny and always beautifully painted, draws on a Prado-load of old masters. Heck lives in Antwerp, home to Rubens where there must be something in the water. Her gorgeous flesh tones and abundant skin are Rubens 2.0. But just so we don’t get too comfortable with this connection she plays with anatomy in unorthodox ways, adding a cartoon foot here, a Pebbles Flintstone bone there and placing the occasional buttocks jutting out frontally beneath a figure’s trunk.
Heck knows her stuff and we also see Caravaggio, de la Tour, Brueghel, Guston and Salle digested and regurgitated á la Heck. There’s even a Roger van der Weiden background transformed into her take on Northern Renaissance scenery. On this rollercoaster ride through Jansen, Heck’s work flows from realism to cartoon, from audacity to restraint and back again.
In her spare, uncrowded canvases, negative space is not only a background but a player. The lack of visual clutter imparts gravitas to the figures and elevates the work to a heroic level. Heck has it all. She paints like an old master but she uses an inspired contemporary language. Her work is entirely her own and entirely fresh.