The recent work produced by sculptress Harma Heikens shows life-size orphaned children, smeared with dirt and scantily clad in rags. They are busily engaged with money, food and clothing. Their cartoon-like clothing and expressive glances make them appear like a cross between porcelain Hummel figurines and personages from the Manga comic strips. Heikens uses culturally determined symbols wherein the representation of the child can be seen as a metaphor for the near future. Working within the playful idiom of popular culture and making use of techniques of temptation derived from the advertising world, she calls forth visions of a befouled world terrorized by economic and sexual exploitation. The colorful and playful image language manipulates the viewer into considering the attractiveness of this idea. It delivers cynical, sometimes pornographic images which, at the same time, seem to wish to offer consolation in their reference to images of saints and martyrdom.
Heikens says that these child figures are a reflection on the decorative paintings of sad-eyed children, mass-produced in the 1960s following Keane’s example. Rendering poverty aesthetic and sexualizing the child’s body were at the time experienced as innocent. Placed by Heikens in a contemporary context, such images now call up a grim, post-apocalyptic reality. This must mean either that the world has deteriorated or that we ourselves, the viewers, have lost our innocence.