Adele van Heerden pays close attention to complexity. As an artist and curator living in a world where the binary has been replaced by the spectrum, Van Heerden revels in the beauties of the multifarious, creating intricate pieces in ink on paper which juxtapose the natural world with human history. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, she produces finely detailed, often layered work as a personal response to the particular social, historical and political conditions she finds herself in.
After graduating with a degree in Fine Arts from the Ruth Prowse School of Art in 2010, Van Heerden continued her studies at the University of South Africa, obtaining a BA in History and Politics. In 2015, she graduated from the University of Cape Town with an Honours Degree in Curatorship.Nature remains deeply ingrained in our language, culture and consciousness. For much of history, we have acted on an intuitive sense that we need connection with nature to feel well. Now, in the moment of our migration away from the wild and towards urbanization and rapidly developing technology, more and more scientific evidence confirms its place at the heart of our psychological well-being.
In his natural philosophy, Plato proposes that we are predisposed to recognising and engaging with the natural environment. Since as far back as the 1790s, soil has been thought to have a curative effect on mental illness. Recent studies have shown that contact with soil microbes, Mycobacterium vaccae, improves serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the systems of humans, acting as a natural antidepressant which improves mood, reducing anxiety, and facilitating learning.
My process begins with the exploration and documentation of physical spaces as part of interacting with a new city. On returning to the studio, these images are translated onto film through drawing and painting on both the front and the back of the translucent substrate.
Lately, I’ve observed a renewed preoccupation with houseplants. Returning to Cape Town, my attention shifted from urban to the domestic. Being home after an extended time away and confined to the indoors due to the lockdown prompted a re-engagement with interior scenes. Many of us city-dwellers bring natural elements from outside indoors, comforting our biophilic selves by creating our own domestic greenhouses in our living rooms, sustaining our relationship to the organic world.