A powerful reminder of the Natural world
Simon Heijdens, Now Gallery, London
By Hannah Dugiud
The best time to see Simon Heijdens' Shade is between nine and tt in the morning. Triangles of light dance across a high glass wall in a circular building near North Greenwich Tube station. At this hour, patterns appear sharp and graphic, reflected onto the floor. Their rhythm makes no sense until you realise the glass is sensitive to air and light. Small triangular sections turn from opaque to clear as a gust of wind hits and ripples across the glass like leaves on a tree or a shoal of fish that sways and glints in sunlit water. In the afternoon as the sunlight softens. the patterns become muted and fade. The effect makes the building feel alive. A grey, corporate interior reflects the moods of nature that buildings usually shield us from. It's magical, at odds with the mundane surroundings. Caught in the bustle of a city day, it makes us stop and remember where we are; it brings us back to earth.
In Lightweeds. currently on show in MoMA New York, Heijdens tested conditions on a street outside the museum: humidity, the position of the sun. rainfall, temperature, air quality.
He led this data into a computer to make a kind of digital seed'. which projects an image of a plant onto the wall. It grows in accordance with the conditions outside. The plants spread. blossom. pollinate and die out - exactly like nature except for the accelerated growth. They are literally weeds made of light. Heijdens. a 36-year-old Dutchman, trained in experimental film and conceptual design. "Iliere's a story in each work the timeline of a year passes. the cycle of life goes by. Nature lives and breathes he filters rather than captures it. Less an imposed. controlled sense of beauty. it directs us to what's already there. He reawakens our senses to the seasons, the sun and the wind. He grew up in Breda. a small town in the Netherlands, where every tree and plant is ordered and maintained. In urban spaces. we live more indoors than outside so he brings nature inside - a sudden breath of wind, a burst of light, the growth and movement of plants. His work unharnesses nature, traces and amplifies what's left of it in urban spaces.
He creates the spontaneity that city life loses as we immerse ourselves in technology. hooked into our phones and temperature-controlled rooms. Each piece takes at least a year to make, sometimes more. Most of it he makes alone, crafting each section and stage. They're made to be permanent, to respond to a particular place and become part of it. Lightweeds is like a digital ecosystem. which spreads up a museum wall. Shade exists quietly in the space. reflecting the weather through complex technology. It's a subtle beauty. hypnotic and transformational. Its an experience that might alter how we walk down a city street - noticing the breeze on our skin. the movement of wind through a city tree. the fall of light on its branches and leaves.