Soft Traces - Annick Halier

When approaching the work of visual artist Annick Halier (Rotterdam, 1983) a wide variety of possible artistic classifications comes to mind. With her often delicate and poetic pieces, Halier has placed herself in between clearly defined artistic practices.

Halier's work consists of mixed media works, textiles, photography and installation. As an artist with a background in fashion design and photography, she shows great sensitivity to material, texture and composition as well as to the play of dimensions and layers of perception. With a keen eye on detail and an interest in textile and craftsmanship, she investigates the diverse aspects of the materiality and structure of textiles and different types of yarns and fibers.

In her photographic work, she often uses herself as a model - however, the pictures are not portraits as such. She has an interest in the human figure as a subject, and she becomes a figure herself in her photos, taking on different roles. She presents images within images and plays with the reality of the photograph itself as a physical object.

As part of her installation in the group show Je m'aime, she presents photographs of objects next to the objects themselves and stitches thread into the pictures, connecting the representations with the actual objects. She presents cut-out fabric silhouettes of herself next to photographs of her wearing the silhouettes as clothing, and the photographic prints are re-materialized by the stitches. With these hand stitched interventions she adds another layer of visual authorship to the object.

In this installation, Halier uses a distinctly feminine imagery - the works are presented in a boudoir-like atmosphere with a mirror and pillows, soft fabrics and white lace. Crafts like sewing and embroidery have traditionally been women's work in many cultures, both ancient and modern. This type of needlework is associated with a female universe, and in many of her works, Halier plays on this inherent femininity.

In her solo exhibition One Day at the Office, she constructs a fragmented office space with a ceiling system, cubicles and office furniture. Photographs of herself in professional looking skirts and jackets, and accessories such as pens and post-its add to the office feeling. Within this space, Halier juxtaposes the conformity and perhaps drudgery with elements of playful investigation - processes such as working hours, the passing of time, the imagined movement of the employees, are made visible through sculptural interventions; indications of time stitched on cubicle walls, hand drawn sketches and notes and other soft traces, some more directly readable than others. With these interventions, she invites the viewer to participate in the creation of meaning, as she counteracts the “archetypal ordinariness” of the office landscape.

Tapestry white and Tapestry black (2013) is a work in progress, in which Halier makes series of tapestries, working on pieces of canvas with a fixed shape and size. With a sure sense of composition, she lets colourful organic patterns play up towards simple, monochrome shapes, creating tension in the works' overall impression. In these series, she works with a wide range of fibers, materials and methods. Photographs of different materials are placed next to patches of the material itself, fringes, home-made beads and pearls are stitched on to the canvases. She also incorporates elements of animal and botanical origin, such as alpaca fleece, shells and dried seaweed. Strong tactile sensations are produced simply by looking at these works, imaginging how they would feel to touch; rough and smooth surfaces, soft wool, tassels, ruffles and clusters of silky pearls, and through this, the visual experience is enhanced. The tapestries give associations to tribal art, intrinsically decorated masks and shields, ceremonial objects, and to esoteric maps of journeys through unfamiliar landscapes.

The interest for a natural imagery shines through in different forms in many of her works in the use of patterns, choice of materials and references. Wildlife (2012-ongoing) is a series of crafted plant specimens made from papier mâché, alpaca fleece, wool and other materials.

Annick Halier embraces the artistic possibilities of all her chosen media to create something new, leaving her distinct personal imprint. Her work is for a large part based on intuition and feeling - she relies on her experience and instinct and what visually feels right. Although she uses many different media, there seems to be a connection in her work practice: a sort of subtitle or story that connects her different works. Despite the obviously labourious working processes, her works radiate lightness and spontaneity. Her artistic method results in aesthetically beautiful artworks inoculated with playfulness and a desire to explore, always with an underlying humour and a poetic sensibility.