Kati Heck’s paintings are a visual hangover. They’re the physical manifestation of having one drink too many, they’re that Jägerbomb that you really didn’t need at 2am, the shot that pushes you over the edge of drunkenness into the abyss of idiocy. She’s constructed a hexagonal carpeted room within the gallery here and filled it with six enormous paintings. The works reference a Gustav Mahler symphony and some ancient Chinese poems, but for those of us who aren’t scholars of Austrian classical music or Chinese poetry – I mean really, please, come on, seriously – what these works give you instead are flashbacks to nights you wish you’d forgotten.
There are big bar scenes, lush musical performances filled with heady, unstoppable revelry, layabouts and barflies. In one image, a two-headed woman stands in a dark forest with only a lute to defend herself, stalked by an Iggy Pop character emerging from a fiery hellscape. In another, a bleary-eyed couple lie in a field, their image mirrored in putrid pukey green beneath them. It’s the end of every night out you can barely remember. It’s silly, debauched, lonely, fun. The veil of Mahler and poetry only serves to make the whole thing foggier, like a late-night conversation that definitely made sense at the time but was clearly total gibberish.
They’re quite beautifully painted works – full of detail, neat and precise – but that detracts from all of it a little, makes the recall a bit too close to perfect. Like photos of the night before, you wish they were a lot less high-definition. If nothing else, Heck’s work is a brilliant reason to say no to that last Sambuca.