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Exploring the world virtually - Islands by Heidi Fourie
by Marilyn de Freitas posted on March 17, 2015.

Heidi Fourie
Museums and botanical gardens II, Oil on canvas (120 x 45cm)

Maps are important tools in understanding in a visual way the world around us. Millions of maps are produced and used annually throughout the world by scientists, scholars, governments, and businesses to meet environmental, economic, political, and social needs. For the majority of us, maps represent a useful tool which we often use in daily life to navigate new roads or routes; or when searching for a specific landmark, shopping centre or street name in an unfamiliar town or city.

Heidi Fourie's solo exhibition entitled Islands, interprets and investigates virtual maps through Google Earth and Street View. She explores the world virtually from her studio where it becomes an 'island' from which she interprets and investigates the dualities between isolation and escape.

The exhibition is an accumulation of Fourie's mentorship at Lizamore & Associates Gallery in Johannesburg. She was mentored by established artist Frikkie Eksteen, over the past year. For the exhibition, Fourie immersed herself in the virtual in order to make sense of the world and her place within it. She explores the sense of frustration she is experiencing of being trapped within her studio and being limited in her travelling the world. In order for her to be connected with the world, she sourced and collected images from Google Earth and Street View and listened to travel podcasts in order to immerse herself within the new and foreign places.

Heidi Fourie
Shifts and contrivances available in wild countries, Oil on canvas (110 x 240cm)

The largest work on exhibition, 'Shifts and contrivances available in wild countries', is a is a panoramic depiction of her artist studio and is centrally placed overlooking the rest of the works. The work features two dome-like circles which references the traditional depiction of the world map but also creates a sense of two eyes looking out at the viewer, mimicking the artist's own 'exploration' of the world.

In each of the works, Fourie explores the glitches and distorted persectives in Google's digital rendering. Google's panoramic views of cities and neighborhoods in Street View are photographed by car-mounted cameras and weaved together into a digital and virtual embodiment of the world. The Google car-mounted cameras are unable to have a complete 360-degree view and therefore Google fills in the 'void spaces' with digitally rendered images that do not always perfectly fit in.

"I spent the past year unfolding [the world] through Google Street View. I became intrigued by the ambiguous shifting and transitional effects that can be seen when navigating in Street View, such as digital glitches and the distorted perspectives of peculiarly curved streets, which rendered the surroundings island-like," says Fourie.

Heidi Fourie
Geological indications, Oil on panel (84 x 60cm)

Fourie recreated these 'islands' by exploring the dome distortion created by the camera's limited reach. She also adds effects and 'glitches' of her own, such as reflections and exaggerations, creating new perspectives lacking in Google's depictions, for example, in the work,'Geological indications', which features a night mountain range that would not be seen in the Google's images.

Fourie also explores the relationship between digital imagery and painting. Some of the works on exhibition incorporate the blurry movement effect created when one moves in Google Street View. Fourie aligns this with the smearing of the paint onto the canvas. She often reinterprets the tradition of painting by fragmenting her subject matter and exploring its animation possibilities. The exhibition features a mechanical flipboard of 36 small paintings of the globe which turns as the viewer flips the images. Fourie admits that fragmenting a painting into separate frames is a tedious and primitive method of animation, but it does create metamorphic paintings with interesting repetition and subtle changes.

Fourie's Islands showcases her developing characteristic style in her inherent use of painterly skill, a feat for a young emerging artist. The works explore aspects of the digital's representation of reality that we may not have considered yet but also contain a personal exploration of Fourie's career as a young artist and its limitations.

The exhibition runs from 12 March - 2 April 2015 at the Lizamore & Associates Gallery in Johannesburg.


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