Judith Van Heeren’s new collection of oil paintings continues the ar tist’s three decade- long celebration of the vicissitudes
of the natural world, drawing from a specific, formative moment diving in the Great Barrier Reef. This experience
changed the way she perceived the natural world by revealing the conflicted nexus between its captivating magic
and confronting mortality.
Plush, velvety renderings of whimsical landscapes populated by aqueous gardens and intricate encrusted hills of
jewel - like organisms connect the observer with the beauty and fragility of these reef environments. Undulating
corals and finger- like anemones sway in a silent dance choreographed by Van Heeren’s memories, and yet there’s
a searing stillness that betrays their ostensible movement. They are like living fossils, frozen in the peak of their
performance. Herein lies the dichotomy of these liminal landscapes, for they are at once animate and inanimate,
energetic and inert. This coalescence of both life and death tacitly evokes the plight of the Great Barrier Reef
fuelled by coral bleaching and pollution. Sharp foregrounds colonised by a lurking chiaroscuro give way to ghostly
white horizons of vacant space – a chilling apparition from the future. Through their flawless magic realism
coupled with visual allusions to colonialist landscapes and natural history paintings, Van Heeren’s surreal realms
foreshadow the fate of the reef; for it may be reduced to a fantasy, a memory or a dream. Muted pastels and gentle
tonal gradations adorning intricate minutiae lull the viewer into a vacuum of silence wherein faint whisperings
reciting secrets of the natural world linger just out of reach.