Alexandra Heyes is an established painter specialising in figurative painting and portraiture,
with work in collections in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
In 1994 Alexandra lived in France for a year. Heyes exhibited with the Vault gallery in
Antibe, resulting in an interview on the Radio Riviera Arts programme in Monte Carlo. Here
she was introduced to Zoe Barclay and John Pelling ( both highly respected English painters,
and friends of Francis Bacon ) who offered her their apartment as a base from which to
paint for several months. It was during this time that she was given permission to paint on
location in Monaco ( which is normally prohibited ). Remarkably, half of the Haggan Daz
cafe was provided for her to set up her easel and paint - this painting would later procure
her an invitation from the promotional director, Nadia Babati to exhibit at the internationally
renowned Hotel de Paris.
After returning to New Zealand in 1995, Heyes continued to paint specialising in portraiture
and figurative painting. Her daughter Sarah inspired much of Heyes’ work in the following
years. The Gillan gallery in Parnell exhibited and represented her and in 2005, Heyes
established her Atelier Galerie in Auckland where she engaged in conservation framing,
gilding and tutoring, holding annual exhibitions. In 2008 she travelled to France again,
began exhibiting with galerie Saint Roch in Paris and undertook a portrait commission in
Paris. Her portrait work and figurative painting have become highly sought after and in
2013 she was commissioned to paint a portrait of Bill Buckley ( Bill was nominated for New
Zealander of the year).
The painting process
Heyes makes many of her own paints and mediums to achieve the beautiful hues and textures
which are a signature of her painting. She captures the natural personality and essence of
her subjects with preliminary charcoal drawings. Her recent works with gold are an extension
of her love for antiquities and nature conservation. Her influences are mainly European,
especially from the painter ‘Balthus’ and Spanish and the Italian painters such as Velasquez,
Goya and Caravaggio.
A brief history of gilding
Before the advent of painting on canvas with oil paints, painting on timber panels was
common practice. Painting was often in tempera, (pigment ground in egg) The medieval
artist incorporated goldleaf into the design of the painting and frame. Just when man learnt
how to cover timber objects with very thin sheets of gold is uncertain: it could be much
earlier than 2000BC as many objects found in Egyptian tombs are gilded with gold leaf.
When examined, the surface of ancient objects is found to be the same as that used now: a
ground of gesso, (pronounced jesso - a mixture of chalk and animal glue applying at least 8
layers), bole (a coloured clay again bound with glue, another 4-6 layers), then a very thin
covering of beaten gold leaf. Alexandra Heyes’ panels and frames are each produced using
this traditional method.