Ethereal and dreamlike meets surreal and striking in the new Erik Madigan Heck exhibition at the Christophe Guye Galerie, Zurich. Despite arriving on the fashion photography scene fairly recently, Heck has developed a distinct take on both mediums, which has been embraced by the contemporary art world. At ease in both creative and commercial spheres, these works explore the subjective and paradoxical nature of beauty and fashion, producing images that are at once experimental, arresting and strange.
With a bold approach to colour, line, shape and pattern, these pieces take an interesting and well-defined place in the 100-year history of fashion photography. With Horst P. Horst, Erwin Blumenfeld, Irving Penn, Guy Bourdin, Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton coming before him, Heck’s approach is decidedly his own. Often working with turned or obstructed faces, the interest at the centre of these works lies in the form of the clothes, which shape the body and alter its silhouette in unpredictable ways.
Constructed with meticulous precision and injected with bold, bright colours, Heck’s work seeks to create a visual space that blurs the line between the clothes and the background. This is explored most notably in his collaboration with Comme des Garçons and the New York Times Magazine, where Heck was commissioned to photograph six pieces from Rei Kawakubo’s Fall 2017 collection. Entitled Future of Silhouettes, the series features the model Saskia de Brauw, who is shown here with a painted white face. Encased in Kawakubo’s avant-garde monochromatic creations, her body is altered and distorted by the enigmatically shaped fabric cocoons that encase her. Perfectly capturing the otherworldly nature of these designs, Heck’s images inject their own surreal edge to these boundary blurring creations, which push fashion photography to daring new limits.
This series has been published in a new book entitled Old Future, which is published by Thames & Hudson this year. Collaborating with artists he admires from both the fashion and art worlds, Heck explains in the book that, “when I started researching different brands and their designers – from the most mainstream to the most obscure – I began to see fashion as an art form with its own language, aesthetics and creative possibilities.” Having always looks to painting as a guide for how to approach colour, Heck has cited Edouard Vuillard, Edgar Degas, Peter Doig, Marlene Dumas and Gerhard Richter as inspirations. For Heck, “art is a continuum you are meant to build from.”
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1. From Erik Madigen Heck, Old Future, at Christophe Guye Galerie.