Heidi Woodhead

In my paintings I explore themes of love and lies, creation and nature, life and decay. I ask, but do not quite answer, the existential questions that drive me to create. Eleven years spent working as a forensic crime scene examiner has given me an eye for detail and an appreciation for the fleeting nature of beauty. I aim to capture the exquisite when I paint and celebrate the little joys but I don’t shy away from the darkness, I embrace it, utilising it as a contrast to the colour and the light.

I am inspired by botanical and Vanitas paintings of the 17th century; their lushness, playfulness, symbolism and sense of discovery. In some ways my paintings serve as a modern Vanitas but always with a touch of whimsy. – Heidi Woodhead.

mermaids in the basement

My work on these paintings began a year ago when I spent 2 months at Cape Bruny as the lighthouse keeper. That winter was filled with the beauty and power of nature – cold, wild and majestic, but having duties to fulfill as the lighthouse keeper it was also a time of strict routine, domesticity and sometimes mundane repetition. Spending a winter on a remote outpost overlooking the sea gave me the opportunity to explore my surroundings and I became interested in the juxtaposition between the wild and natural environment and our requirement to try to control it.

I was inspired by the quaintness of the tiny museum on site, which contained everything from pieces of broken crockery, shells, dried seaweed husks and animal skulls, to old record books and pieces of disused machinery. These pieces gradually made their way into my paintings along with a play on the darkness and light.

Like the mermaids in Emily Dickinson’s poem, the subjects of my work lie in wait, quietly shining in the darkness, waiting for their turn to bask in the light, as if illuminated by the sweep of the lighthouse lamp. The mermaids bring a connotation of both beauty and the sea, of curiosity and mythology, but the direction of their gaze is reflected back at us, and I see this as a metaphor for my work. – Heidi Woodhead

I started early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –
Emily Dickinson