Robert Hengeveld

Robert Hengeveld, Study for Wile Wild, MacLaren Art Centre, 2011, chalk pastel on vellum. Gift of the artist, 2011. Photo: Andre Beneteau
Robert Hengeveld, Wile Wild, 2011, installation view, MacLaren Art Centre. Photo: Andre Beneteau

Robert Hengeveld
Study for Wile Wild, 2011
Chalk pastel on vellum
88 x 68 cm
Gift of the artist, 2011

Robert Hengeveld
Miss November, 2012
Decoy, foam and steel, edition 1 of 3
91.44 x 30 x 76.2 cm
Gift of the Artist, 2016

Robert Hengeveld was born in Toronto in 1976, where he lives and works today. Hengeveld studied art at the School of Design and Visual Arts, Georgian College (Certificate and Diploma, Fine Arts, 1998), Ontario College of Art and Design (AOCAD, 20000) and University of Victoria (MFA, 2005). Recent solo exhibitions include those at Union Gallery, Kingston; MacDonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph; Eyelevel, Halifax, Eastern Edge Gallery, St John’s; CIRCA, Montreal; Mercer Union, Toronto; Galerie Sans Nom, Moncton; and shows at Katherine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects in Toronto, where he’s represented.

Hengeveld’s practice examines the interstices between the real and the artificial, and often comprises immersive installations that mimic landscape but reveal their own construction. In 2011, Hengeveld was invited to create an outdoor installation in the Massie Sculpture Courtyard. Wile Wild was a site-specific sculpture tableau composed of manufactured products. It was a stage set—including a plastic deer decoy, Christmas trees, faux rocks, artificial turf and green shag carpeting—simulating a small, uprooted section of wilderness. This platform was perched four metres above the deck level of the Courtyard on an asymmetric system of two-by-four stilts. The courtyard perimeter and walls, planted with grasses, evergreens and ivy, complicated the juxtaposition of natural to synthetic. Wile Wild was an absurd, double-entendre enactment of humankind’s impulse to recreate elements of the world it has lost or de-natured.

Robert Hengeveld has made two donations of work to the MacLaren, both deriving from Wile Wild. The first is a study for the installation, produced when Hengeveld’s designs for the installation were well established. Hengeveld is a talented draftsman, and this study contains marks of a pragmatic nature as well as those more evocative and experiential. Presenting a slightly aerial point of view of the proposed installation, the study recalls the vantage from the upstairs window—a particularly intriguing way to view Hengeveld’s installation.

Miss November is a minimalist and humorous sculpture comprised of the legs of a plastic deer. The process of creation was, in this case, a process of discovery: while Hengeveld was striking Wile Wild he noted that the deer legs of the Wile Wild’s central figure were an effective and wry stand-in for the deer itself. While the deer in question was actually a stag, the title Miss November nonetheless evokes the ways in which parts of an object can be a proxy for the whole.  In a parallel process, a beauty queen or pin-up is reduced to a pair of legs, and from a pair of legs a deer is constructed. It is possible to take this one step further and view this work as a metonymic distillation of Wile Wild, a small but powerful token of what was once monumental.