press release

Beau monde is Sara van der Heide's (1977) first solo exhibition in Galerie Fons Welters. The exhibit consists of large paintings done in egg tempera and a series of smaller ink drawings. Sara van der Heide studied a.o. at the Academie for Visual Arts, Amsterdam, the AKI in Enschede as well as de Ateliers in Amsterdam. In October 2001 she won the Koninklijke Subsidie voor Schilderkunst (the Dutch Royal Grant for Painting).

He who speaks of the beau monde speaks of the chic elite. One often refers to the glitter and glamour of either film stars or princesses. But who's 'beautiful world' is this anyway? And to which desires does it really answer?

Sara van der Heide - herself a part-time model - sponges her images off of the world of illusion and veracity. Her paintings are like bizarre tableaux of the intensely psychical. As though the leading actors have found themselves in their own deluded fantasies, as though the world itself has morphed into their very personal, subjective experience. In The Rehearsal (2000) a ballerina dances in front of an awaiting shark, gazed at by a naked, darkly coloured woman. Fall in New Orleans (2001) portrays a well dressed man, lying fallen on the street, encumbered by a tremendous vegetation of seedlings and bean stocks. It is unclear whether the drama has just taken place or whether it is yet to occur.

These images are painted from newspaper photographs and magazine pictures. They are thus second-hand, so to speak, a representation of representations. Nevertheless this familiar rendering of the represented world, as we know it from the media, has been completely disrupted. Images from the newspaper are - as it were - used against themselves. Painting, inherently, does not allow for momentary glimpses. These paintings combine flashes from a past with brash visions of a future, hence becoming as real and symbolic as a recollection, a daydream, a déjà-vu. Some depict a feeling of lethargy and giddy decadence; others seem to exorcise the ominous and the anxious.

The radiant, colourful pictures are built up from semi-transparent layers, sometimes brought on in broad, quick strokes, other times concentrated and reserved. The complex, often unstable, compositions seem to heave, to swell, to flutter. Much happens simultaneously: figure, background and décor battle for foreground. The drawings, on the other hand, are simple, and more direct. In the many greys of washed-out ink mysterious images of quiet, forgotten streets, dark shrubbery, of the serene expression of a young woman, are bathed in unnatural light - a shadowland of unspoken emotions.

Perhaps these tragic-comical scenes of the beau monde appear particularly odd due to the deliberate thinning of a line between 'simply normal' and 'strangely different'. "I've never quite understood the craving for authenticity," says Sara van der Heide. "The difference between someone who is simply themselves and someone who's playing a role isn't apparent to me. In my mind, nothing is what it seems." What should we think of the black cowboy in Voor Marcel (2001)? Is the young man who stands in the dusk next to two forgotten boats waiting for another (and, if so, what is the other like)? Or is he a dancer in a musical, awaiting his cue backstage? It is very possible that we are looking at someone who has never been able to see himself under these circumstances, as we see him now. Also possible - and this is a more unsettling option - the painting reflects our own misapprehension of reality.

Dominic van den Boogerd

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Sara van der Heide
Beau Monde