Sumptuous Layerings of Lines
WHOLE areas of human experience cannot really be described in words, though most of us are used to making sense of what we see, know, and feel with words. Words can be so inadequate to explain a complex emotion. Nor can an intuitive grasp of a complex situation always be explained fully in words. New York artist Richard Heinrich draws and sculpts by intuition and by intuition addresses the deep "structures" of his experience in his nonobjective works.
He has been drawing works on paper ever since he decided he was an artist. He always liked charcoal, he says, and for a long time rubbed lamp-black, a highly refined soot, directly on paper. He worked with paint stick (oil stick) and charcoal, and then moved easily into pastels.
A series he has been working on for several years (untitled except by date) appears to be highly ordered - a complex network of overlapping and layered lines apparently organized on a grid. These are slightly deceptive to the eye at first. The lines are actually laid down intuitively. Some of these drawings look like plaids from a distance, but close inspection reveals sumptuous layering of lines. The drawings also look flat at first. But the viewer begins to see the subtle shadings of depth, the more ob vious emotional impact of various color changes, and the much more subtle structuring of the grids. In one there is an emotionally charged cruciform, in another, the neutral image of the window cross-pane. As similar as they are, each of these drawings makes its own very definite statement. Here is a theme with many variations.
Mr. Heinrich, who looks to Bach (particularly the "Goldberg Variations") and to jazz greats Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, and Thelonius Monk, among others, for inspiration, is profoundly involved with the hidden structures of their music.
"I'm very interested in the structure of things," he says. "I have a great curiosity as to how things work, how they are held together. When I look at a building, I'm more intuitive about what's inside and what's holding it up.
"What I do in drawings is [make] structural connections rather than a visual illusionism. As with the structure of music, Bach and jazz, the drawings become a kind of improvisational performance," he says.
"In improvisation, a musician will play a series of chords and will play this chord from the bottom, then from the top, and so on. The sound process becomes a layer on top of a layer and culminates in a crescendo. The layers develop into a complete whole. That's the way the drawing is made - it's developed, one line on top of another, in the structural sense. But it is improvisational - there is no preliminary sketch even with the sculptures. What I do, I have in mind, and I do it directly. There's no pl anning other than [choosing] size and format."
The end result, he says, is a combination of an emotional catharsis and a recording of something - a visual experience - that cannot be narrated in language. He calls it an intuitive response or nonlinguistic interpretation of visual experience.
The drawings represent subtle variations on a theme. The more you look the more you see. Particularly impressive is a piece in black and gold leaf, insinuating associations with medieval painting. The intricate shadings form shadows on the grid. Hard to reproduce, the little drawing is beautiful, oddly satisfying, and hints at eternity. Though there is a feeling of closure - of a finished work of art - there is also an implication that the idea of the work goes on forever. Like thought itself, the image is many layered, intricate, and open-ended.