BOS Studio Spotlight: Yolande Heijnen

Heijnen’s “The bed we lay in”, 60″x72″

Yolande Heijnen was born and raised in Luxembourg, and has lived in New York since 1998. She has an MFA in painting from the New York Studio School, has won the Edward G. McDowell Travel Grant of the Art Students League, and is a three-time recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant.

All photos byCatherine Kirkpatrick

AS: What are the main themes and concerns of your work?

Yolande Heijnen: I’m fascinated by our state of being human, our strength and vulnerability. Also by the complexity of interior experience and how our environment affects it, and vice versa, especially with today’s constant flow of information and imagery, much of it horrible, negative, complicated, and ridiculous, which challenges our ability to connect to ourselves and each other.

I represent the human form visually, while at the same time, consider it an energy-center and a mind-state of possibility; a source of subjective and interior experience. The subjects are not always fully present.

Untitled Heijnen diptych in progress

AS: Tell us about your process.

Yolande Heijnen: The sketchbook is my initiator, my friend when I’m in need, and my inspirer. It allows me to work into ideas. I often start on the left side and respond to it with something on the right side, which then affects how I proceed with the left, creating a new whole.

Pages of Heijnen’s Sketchbook
Pages of Heijnen’s Sketchbook

My diptychs are inspired like that. My triptych also started like that, but as I was painting, I got stuck and added a third panel to get unstuck. I did the Rorschach paintings also because of the sketchbook. I folded the paper on itself and loved what started to happen. I tried to reproduce it on a canvas. I never succeeded, because what happened on the canvas took a life of its own, but I was excited by it and the painting took off from there.

Heijnen paintings “Out of mind” , 60″x48″ and “Narcissus”, 60″x48″ in her studio

I also use the sketchbook when I do not have any idea. I start on something, often for no other reason than finding it beautiful, or if I am curious about it. When I get stuck on a painting, I also repaint it in my sketchbook to see if I can approach it another way.

Heijnen’s Triptych “Underwater” (each panel is 65″x53″

AS: Where do you find inspiration?

Yolande Heijnen: A lot of different artist’s work inspires me.  Work by Morris Louis, Joan Mitchell, Doron Langberg, Diebenkorn, Bonnard and many others.  I’m not expressly using their work visually, but am inspired by the energy I feel in front of their paintings. I’m not sure how they make it into my work, but I hope they do. What happens around me and in my life inspires me too.

Detail of work in progress

AS: What are you working on right now?

Yolande Heijnen: I just returned from a residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and am currently working on a larger piece that is developing slowly. It’s inspired by the same theme of connectedness/disconnectedness. I am trying to make the process and materiality of the painting be as important as the subject. They keep winning out over one another, and I am not sure how important this struggle is other than getting me excited. I am looking at Diebenkorn quite a bit.

Heijnen looking at her work with Rico Gaston during Bushwick Open Studios
Catherine Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer based in New York. She wrote the introductions to Meryl Meisler’s two books, and is currently working on an oral history about recent changes in photography.