Canadian technician and visual wiz Heidi Taillefer has produced a group of amazing new works for a current exhibition in Pittsburgh, PA at the Michael Berger Gallery, called “Playing With Fire”. Viewing Taillefer’s paintings, one gets the sense that she is in tune with some mythological mixture of beauty and technology, with a twist of the grotesque and a nod to the voyeuristic. That’s not to say that the gorgeously rendered paintings tilt overly to the macabre. The artist balances her Baroque sense of delivery with a modern love and lust for a subject most easily described as softly poetic while robust in its delivery. Yet, with the gentle grace that Heidi has become known for, she shares an imaginative visual feast with her viewers. While the true objectives of her aim are often best left for her singular voice alone to describe.
Nathan Spoor checks in below..
NS: Thank you for taking time to talk to us; it’s nice to chat with you, Heidi. The Hi Fructose readers would be curious to know what this new work is about and where you’ve been coming from internally for this new body of paintings.
HT: I pursued a Humanistics degree at McGill University where I studied the Classics, an extension of the liberal arts program I followed in college. From ancient Greek literature to a variety of languages, political science, natural science, music, and anthropology, my educational background included almost everything except fine art. That, I studied privately from the time I was a small child, on a purely technical level, so that today my work is a product of influences stemming from a classical academic background and the many real-life dramas which have colored my life. I could be considered self-taught, but I prefer to liken myself to a Galapagos finch, evolving in a set of independent circumstances, while remaining relatively unaffected by the artistic influences around me although I was always drawn to Dali. To me that would count as art education as much as any trained exploration, because it is raw, real, and steadily pursued, and ironically, manages to cover the same explorations as had some of the early 20th century surrealists, as if channeled by forces intent on remaining heard well into our age of technological transformation.
Perhaps out of instinct, I use a language of story telling in my work which draws from mythologies around the world, much like our collective basket of religions that have waxed and waned and evolved throughout human history, but have been the hallmark of our being from the get-go. We have a need to make sense of the world around us, to find meaning in suffering (and joy) if only to make it bearable in order to go on. It is the safety switch of a highly developed mind, which can observe its own consciousness and not just be one with it. And whose self-observation is its own best friend and worst enemy, magnifying the often-cruel realities of life. So we either live in denial, or are tortured by certain realities, or find cathartic release and manage to control what is mercifully a malleable perception, in the hopes of tapping into what has to be in the end, a connection to something “other” which we will probably never fully grasp. And which to me would all boil down to physics and the link between consciousness and some quantum dimension (dimension number 11).
So mythology is the approach I take in my work, to make sense of my own experience of reality and relationship to the world, which is as tumultuous as it is sublime. And because my life oddly mirrors what I either paint or put together as a show, I would say as an amateur of subjects I only know superficially or intuitively, that everything must boil down to physics. Physics, as in inclined planes, gravity, laws of the universe, all the forces we know of which have allowed technology to advance as it has today, and finally…those Secret Masons manifestations of reality. And historically, physics was once considered philosophy so it’s a natural course of progression that I should paint about hopeful transcendence.
It seems so much art of the 20th century has maintained an objective detachment from moral appraisal or commentary. Other than allowing the viewer to react to images depicting some of the horrors of this world as the principle source of opinion, or champion the trivial and nonsensical, ethics and spirituality don’t seem to be of much interest in the world of art today, which prefers to focus on the neutrality of color or technique or experience or perception. Is that because philosophy has little room in art, and true art is meant to sustain a cold objectivity stripped of consciousness – as in the science lab, where experiments are conducted without regard to any suffering by the test subject?
Although I can only claim to know the levels of my technical skills as an artist, and lean on the credentials of my non-art-related academic studies and whatever else I’ve learned across the board since then, to merge the two together and end up with what amounts to a conscious exploration of the human condition differentiating myself from classical mythology through a hopeful search for transcendence voiced in a contemporary language of mechanized images, seems to set me apart from the majority of artists today, and causes me to come up with some apparently challenging images. And, maybe relegate me to the sidelines where I will one day hopefully gain a voice if Kandinsky’s prophetic upward moving triangle manages to include my art in the end, which I can hopefully make happen with the aid of technology and a voice that can yell it out far and wide.