Drawing inspiration from the vast expanse of the natural world, Anne Hefer’s artwork resonates with a profound sense of abstract openness and freedom. Her canvases, filled with both the familiarity of nature and the enigmatic touch of civilization, serve as portals into a realm where the tangible and imagined converge. As Anne embarks on each painting journey, she steps into the unknown, allowing emotions and thoughts to metamorphose into forms and colors reminiscent of ethereal clouds and distant horizons.
There's a deliberate dance between the real and the abstract in her work, a reflection of her belief that during the painting process, reality blurs into fiction, and the imagined comes vividly to life. Starting with the expansive sky, which she says permits change and freedom, Anne’s ritual of confronting the blank canvas involves permeating it with a color that aligns with her mood, setting the stage for the layers of story and emotion that follow. As poet Hölderlin expressed, “the quest is to explore open spaces, no matter how distant” a sentiment that Anne deeply resonates with, inviting her audience to journey into those uncharted terrains with her.
Read on to learn more in an exclusive interview with Anne Hefer:
What is your overall goal as an artist, and what does being an artist mean to you?
In my imagination, it is above all the natural space that corresponds with openness, ambiguity, and associative diversity; it eludes a system, a norm and allows the greatest possible freedom in the painting process.
Each painting is a departure into the unknown, a possibility to transform thoughts and emotions. In a free but serious play with colors, forms emerge that could also be found in nature: Feathery clouds, cumulus towers, diffuse streams of light, river courses, veils of water, holy stretches of land, and the open sea – they reflect the momentary mood in the painting process. Ominous and enigmatic phenomena creep in smoky chimneys, ship sinks, hearts of fire, gunsmoke, and industrial wastelands“. The result is a mixture of the spheres, a confrontation of archetypal landscapes and seascapes with signs of civilisation. I accept leaps in the scales, also giving me a free choice of color.
During the painting process, reality turns into fiction and imagined into reality. “Let us go then! Off to see open spaces, where we may seek what is ours, distant, remote though it be!”, says Hölderlin. And that is exactly my intention: to keep a free view into open spaces.
Aufbruch 2, 2001 - Oil on canvas, 40x50cm
Literature seems to play an influential role in your works. Which authors or texts have particularly shaped your perspective as an artist?
First and foremost: Kafka. Also poets of Romanticism, from Novalis to Eichendorff, and Hölderlin. The lyrics of Walt Whitman, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Amanda Gorman, and philosophers such as Roland Barthes, and Foucault.
Vom Wasser, 2014 - Oil on canvas, 100x120cm
Your "Departure" series relates to the literature of Kafka. Can you explain your fascination with Kafka and why you incorporate him and his ideas in your works?
For me, Kafka is someone who walks through inner spaces completely autonomously and quite stubbornly makes language the medium of self-development. His life and writing fascinate me and drive me to generate color spaces in which the mood triggered by the reading is reflected. Thus Kafka's writing lies like a subtext beneath many of my paintings.
Im Spiegel der Erde 4, 2016 - Oil on canvas, 70x140cm
You studied at the Düsseldorf Fine Art Academy. How did your time there mold your artistic approach and are there specific moments or mentors that left a lasting impact?
Daily nude and portrait drawings were crucial. I was also thrilled by the drawings of Beuys. I later learned painting techniques and studied Art History, which left a lasting impact on my approach.
Zwischenland, 2017 - Oil on canvas, 140x70cm
Which one of your works holds the most significance to you and why?
Schwarze Schaluppe, 2016 - Oil on Canvas, 50 x 50 cm
"The ship, a rocking piece of space," according to Michel Foucault, is " a place without a place, living from itself, closed in on itself and at the same time at the mercy of the infinite of the sea..."
Anne Hefer in her studio
In your creative process, are there any rituals or routines that you follow to tap into the abstract world you depict?
First of all, I am killing the white canvas and choosing a layer of color that fits the current mood. Frequently I start with the sky because it allows change and freedom while painting.
Carl Gustav Carus, a painter and philosopher, says, “Just as moving clouds are subject to constant change, the same holds true for the inner state of man. Everything that reverberates in his chest, an elucidation, an eclipse, a development, a dissolution, a composition, a destruction, all of this is floating within the formations of cloud regions before our sense“
Anderswo, 2022 - Oil on canvas, 70x100
Given your interest in literature and how it informs your art, are there any upcoming projects or pieces that are inspired by any recent reads?
I would like to depict the“Blue Flower“, a symbol of Romanticism like Novalis describes in his novel “Heinrich von Ofterdingen“. I will see if it works
Anderswo 2, 2022 - Oil on canvas, 70x100cm
Your works have been described as echo chambers that allow for individual interpretations based on personal experiences and memories. What's the most unexpected or unique interpretation someone has shared with you about one of your pieces?
It's astonishing for me: Lots of interpretations are based on real landscapes the viewers have in mind. Nevertheless, my abstract landscapes are devised and imagined. I have never seen them in reality before.
Feuer und Flamme, 2023 - Oil on canvas, 80x40cm
Looking ahead, are there any specific themes or concepts that you're eager to explore in your future works?
I watch the daily news in the media, and the pictures that show special events. When certain images touch me, they become part of my collection. In my studio, I have a large collection of newspaper images that inspire me.
Mittelmeer, 2023 - Oil on canvas, 100x120cm
Tell me about your studio space, its importance to you, and your favorite thing in that space.
I love my studio space. It's quiet, all my materials, collections and art books are there. An ancient leather armchair is my favorite place. From there I can look at my easel with the current painting and think about how to continue working, incorporate changes or plan the next projects.
Mittelmeer 2, 2023 - Oil on canvas, 80x40cm
Can you tell me about any shows or projects you have coming up in the near future?
Artlounge Artodrome Gallery in Bad Mergentheim, Germany - November 2023
Hagenring Galerie Hagen, Germany - November 2023
Aqua Art Miami, USA - December 2023
Galeria Azur Berlin, Germany - March 2024
Art Expo New York, USA - April 2024
Karl-Ernst-Osthaus Museum Hagen, Germany - September 2024
You can learn more about Anne Hefer via her links: