Characterised by an energetic and assured use of line and vivid palette, Heller’s inventive compositions reveal an innate and singular vision of expression. A new exhibition at the Cork Street gallery brings together explorations of the figure, alongside a selection of still life and landscape works.
Although Heller was born with Down’s Syndrome, she found within her art a compelling means of self-expression from an early age. Of Heller’s work, artist Maggi Hambling CBE has said: “The observation is acute and intimate, the execution raw and economic. For me, the work reveals human truth in an eye-opening way.”1
The figures in the current exhibition are articulated through a careful and harmonious balance of colour and line. They resonate within the surrounding space, which is often represented as a patchwork of vivid greens, blues, yellows and pinks. In her mixed-media sculptures, human form is condensed and abstracted, invoking a sensuous experience of physical presence.
The landscape, which has preoccupied Heller since her move from London to the Oxfordshire countryside in 2008, is portrayed with a similarly expressive tonal range and variety of gestural marks, vigorously applied in pastel. Still life works on paper, produced between 2001–2016, are quietly domestic and delicate, with muted tones and hard edges softened by deliberate smudging.
As Matthew Cheeseman has said: “Spend time with Rachel’s work and one learns a visceral language, full of colour and emotion, mood and sexuality. She suggests form in such a fascinating way, via stylised lines and shapes that are effortless and immediate yet also recognise the constructed and delicate nature of perception. As such, it is full of the work of other artists and yet always completely her own.” 2