Heather Gentleman’s work is narrative in nature, finding inspiration in literature, anthropology, mythology, and symbolism. She approaches her ideas through painting, drawing and sculpture as well as video, writing, interactive installation, audio and performance, often with psychological undertones and observation of contemporary culture in a historical context. Her work is influenced by contemporary artists such as Ged Quinn who combine unlikely imagery sit side by side as she coins “catachrestic symbolism”. As Quinn, she explores how ideas, themes and social mores recur and are parallel from one time period to another and how our understanding of the past is shaped by our own contemporary viewpoint.
Her choice of layering of media is meant to enhance the layering of meaning in a story and approach to it’s telling. Her use of materials is determined by the ideas behind the work such as exploring new technology and our humanity by combining polymers and natural materials. Her sculpture, “Echo Chamber,” A wax figure with human hair and glass eyes, peers out of a perspex box that supports perspex cylinders, onto which are projected images of ancient goddesses.
Her characters peer out at the viewer as strangers that belong to a separate, surrealist world, telling stories with the sensibility of an intimate conversation, and yet express universal and archetypal truths, that move beyond the personal. Her compositions of a centred figure create a natural mirroring of viewer and figure which enhances the idea of dialogue, enabling the viewer to see him/herself in the story. Early Christian iconography is a strong influence with its static symmetrical composition and centralized figure or object. It furthers the importance of the symbolic message inherent in the work, both enhancing the individual and communal message. Religious totems whether a figure, a crystal or an obelisk, which embody the power archetype, hover above a landscape that could have been borrowed from a religious painting with floating putti or a science fiction film.
Visually and conceptually, she expresses a constant tension between nature and technology, light and dark, life and death, perception and reality, past and present.