In today’s social-media culture of confession, sharing, externalisation and ceaseless commentary, it is easy to lose sight of the complexity of our own private experiences. Andrea Joyce Heimer’s paintings, which are often energetic depictions of interior or domestic settings, evince this complexity with a sense of bleak humour. They do not shy from the awkward, the inexpressible, or the personal, but are honest, thematic assessments of the brutal comedy of human relationships and their unassailable mystery.
Some works present ludic, slightly chaotic interiors, such as one abuzz with brightly coloured patterns, a Tiffany lamp, a speckled carpet, and a number of vibrant objects and plates on the table. Others are cartoonish, garish and comical portrayals of family life. Still others depict larger societal forces, such as a struggle between black and white neighbours. Yet even these larger forces are usually evaluated through the lens of private life: the privacy of bathrooms or bedrooms, of nudes in interior spaces, where feelings of envy arise in relationship to one’s siblings, or feelings of inadequacy come to the fore.
Adolescence, suburban life, alienation, self-consciousness: Heimer – who has a background as a writer – represents these themes in her vivid narrative paintings. She does so with a light hand, and a two-dimensionality of depiction that recalls traditional crafts or folk art, on the one hand, cartoons on the other. In an age of relentless externalisation, her paintings expose the private feelings that are kept to one’s self and are infrequently or only impartially articulated – even to ourselves. Steeped in a Magical Realist way of looking at the world, her works open up household spaces to the unaired, the awkward, the latent, the unheard or unsayable. While their colourful, pattern-filled exteriors may seem playful, the works also weave dark psychological narratives of buried conflict or antagonism.