Jessica Hein


Jessica Hein: The Light That Gets Lost S’W (2013): Mineral pigments on paper. Images courtesy of the artist and the University of Toronto Art Centre, Toronto.Jessica Hein: The Light That Gets Lost S’W (2013): Mineral pigments on paper. Images courtesy of the artist and the University of Toronto Art Centre, Toronto.

By Renée van der Avoird

Jessica Hein
University of Toronto Art Centre
April 2 – 13, 2013

In her exhibition The Colour of There From Here, Jessica Hein presents a series of process-based drawings that explore the phenomenology of space, place and elementals. Made with water poured onto large sheets of paper and then mixed with naturally derived powdered pigments — most often graphite but also metals, mineral pigments and iron oxides — the drawings depict billowing abstract expanses evocative of the Earth’s topography and meteorological systems.

Hein’s process is intriguing. As she pours, the water slowly meanders and stakes its claim on the paper, which, in turn, undulates and gently buckles under the weight of the liquid. She then whisks the pigments into slurries and drops them into the water where they dilute and disperse into rills and pools. At certain points, Hein delicately guides the pigment with a paintbrush, but chance also plays a crucial role here as the pigments follow routes of their own. Solid and liquid combine to form striking compositions that invite multiple readings. A four-by-four-foot graphite work entitled The Colour of There From Here NE’E (all works 2013), for example, suggests a heavy atmospheric mass, perhaps a rain cloud, while The Light That Gets Lost S’W, a smaller piece made with vivid blue minerals, brings to mind aerial views of drainage basins or river deltas.

Jessica Hein: The Colour of There from Here NE’E (2013): Mineral pigments on paper. Jessica Hein: The Colour of There From Here N'E (2013): Graphite on paper.This geographic element extends further into Hein’s practice. Her drawings are informed by the perceptions and physical experiences she encounters while exploring urban and natural environments. She embarks on walks without maps or a destination, using cloud patterns as navigational cues, following interactions between the movement overheard and the terrain beneath her feet. By embracing the possibility of becoming lost, Hein is able to focus solely on the present and become immersed in her surroundings — a feeling she also experiences in the studio, where mind and body work in an almost automatic unison.

The parallel between these walks and her drawings is evident. While walking, her path is determined by seeking a relationship between earth and sky. In the studio, she searches for form and space in her drawings through relationships between her own movements, and those of the water and the pigments. According to Hein, “just as I was keenly aware of my own physical experience in relation to a sense of expansion overhead as I walked, in the studio I experience a similar sense of expansiveness and searching through movement, action, and pause during the process of drawing.”

To Hein, drawing is an act of mediation in which embodiment and memory are translated through explorations of movement — dynamic interactions of water and pigment, of shifting clouds and shadows, of her own body and the space it occupies. The Colour of There From Here is a quiet, thoughtful and visually exquisite record of movement that truly captures the meditative nature of wandering.