Erik Madigan Heck at Nicholas Metivier Gallery

The model stands very straight, facing away from the viewer. The structure of her asymmetrical black hat mirrors the black and white polka-dotted pattern of her dress. The white background coupled with the sharp, triangular fold on the back of her dress lends a three-dimensional appearance to the image. Strikingly, this picture is not an oil painting, but a photograph.

Erik Madigan Heck, Junya Watanabe, 2018, chromogenic print

The unimportance of the human subject, the focus on the garments and the unique ability to transform his lens into a paintbrush are the hallmarks of Erik Madigan Heck’s art. In his show, Old Future, sixteen of his large-scale photographs are on display at the upper and main level of the Nicholas Metivier Gallery.

Erik Madigan Heck, Valentino, 2015, chromogenic print

As one of the word’s most esteemed fashion photographers, Heck looks to impressionist painters, as well as 16th century Flemish portraiture for inspiration. To create the effect that allows him to mirror those paintings, Heck designs the stages for his shots, combines natural light and in-camera effects with the post-production modifications of saturating his images.

Erik Madigan Heck, Without a Face (Dior), 2018, chromogenic print

There is no stylistic, thematic or chronological flow in this exhibition, nor is there information on the artist or details of the images beyond their basics (their title, date, medium and which designer’s garments are featured). This minimalist approach in exhibiting Heck’s photographs allows the viewer to wholly focus on and get lost in the details of each composition, such as the rich embroidery, the exquisitely patterned fabrics of the garments and the extraordinary hats.

Erik Madigan Heck, Napoleon Vuitton, 2018, chromogenic print

What makes Heck’s works outstanding, besides their painterly values, is his employment of monochrome backgrounds and the way he contrasts it with the bright hues of the clothes he photographs. While the selected garments are remarkable works of art in their own right, it is Heck’s method of depicting them in his unique compositions – his vision – that is most captivating.

Erik Madigan Heck, Without a Face (Maison Margiela), 2018, chromogenic print

Old Future provides the viewer with much to contemplate on and a chance to admire Heck’s ability in blending three art forms: photography, textiles and painting into one harmonious image – not unlike to the making of the garments themselves.

Patricia Tabascio

Images are courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery

*Exhibition information: Erik Madigan Heck, Old Future, April 12 – May 5, 2018, Nicholas Metivier Gallery, 451 King Street West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Tue – Sat, 10 am – 6 pm.

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