Heidi Yssennagger

Painting 'Inside, Out'

In search of a new reality...

The Last Taboo?

  "The origins of my work lie within my own personal history of illness, hospitalisation, surgery and bodily related issues. I have often explored these issues in relation to how I perceive my own body image in reflection and how other's react to ideas around altered body image. Predominantly concerned with the representation of the female body, and the portrayal of the female Nude as perfectly contained, neatly packaged, with no excretions, my work purposefully sets out to challenge, confront and contradict these historical representations.


When I study myself in the mirror, I paint what I see and how I feel. 

I often use photographic  and film imagery to 'stage' my ideas and memories, however, it is the practice of painting that is my primary concern. The use of photography, film and performance have been widely used as mediums with which to represent the female body, since the 1960's, when Feminist Artists started to question the patriarchal representation, ideals and aesthetics that surround the objectification of women within historic paintings. As a result, painting as a medium has been somewhat neglected as an appropriate medium with which to depict the female form. I have purposefully chosen paint as my primary medium, for these reasons but equally importantly, I find that the language of paint transcends photography - with the luminosity and sensuality of paint I am able to portray all manner of tensions, ugliness, beauty, seduction, intensity, power, vulnerability, disgust and psychological discord. In addition to this chiaroscuro inspired by Carravaggio helps to create drama and intrigue in the imagery, and imagination is given a free rein. I also find that the meditative state of painting allows some of the deepest emotions to escape into the painting in a serendipitous manner and when full conciousness is resumed, I am often left with a painting quite different to my original intentions.


More and more, I feel compelled to use  Textile sculpture as my medium...these sculptures are my therapy - inspired early on in my Art practice by the words of Louise Bourgeois "...the magic power of the needle - The needle is used to repair the damage. It is a claim to forgiveness". By sewing together surplace, deconstructed Stoma bags with surgical suture materials, I am healing my own wounds, forgiving my bodies failings and freeing myself of my bodily torment. It is my abreaction.


Whilst my initial concern is one of abreaction and personal therapy, my art also acts as a tool for communication. The work aims to open up discussions about the representation of illness and bodily representation, to challenge stereotypical ideology on beauty, sexuality and body image, to confront prejudice and ignorance in order to present the body authentic. In order to do this the work often looks at the most abject states of illness and disease - Beautiful Ingres styled nudes therefore lounge vomiting into the toilet bowl - this is real life - the dichotomies of beauty and ugliness, and the duality between strength and vulnerability. 

Within the subtext of my work hidden meanings and agendas are always present, in the form of links to Art Historical contexts, psychoanalytic references to mental disturbances and imbalances, links into notions of change, transition, entropy, decay and decomposition as essential elements of mortality; as well as sexuality and sexual fantasy. These issues are often presented in the form of subtle symbolism and metaphors, there to be read if wished.

My work does not dictate to the viewer, nor back them into a corner, but instead seduces them in and then evokes strong physical reactions, asking them to question it, and in doing so question themselves. It is both disturbing and engaging -  it is reality. "