Untitled #1044 2003
oil on composition board
54 x 64 cm
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AO
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2009, TarraWarra Museum of Art collection
Contact TarraWarra Museum of ArtCopyright
For the past three decades the highly evocative works of Louise Hearman have both beguiled with their seductive, painterly surfaces and unsettled through their disquieting and sometimes arresting imagery.
These contrasting responses point to a deep-seated ambiguity and indeterminacy that charges her small scale paintings with their qualities of suggestion and potentiality. In considering this aspect of her works, the following passage from French artist Odilon Redon’s journal seems apposite: ‘An art that suggests is like an irradiation of things for the dream, where thought also sets forth’. The dream-like quality of Hearman’s paintings is often discussed and this effect largely originates from her adeptness at creating the optical illusion of irradiation – the apparent extension of the edges of an illuminated object seen against a dark background. Emerging from the darkness, the artist’s subjects are imbued with an indefinite, spectral quality as they glow, flicker and hover in a peculiar white light where all is not as it seems.
A prime example of this approach is seen in Untitled #1044 (2003) in which a fairly nondescript tract of Australian bush is transformed into an eerie and mysterious nightscape. At first glance, the impression is of a quiet nocturne in which the brisk and thin strokes of white suggest a field of grass suffused by the light of a full moon. However, the white highlights on the side of the spindly tree trunks and more intense flare on the left side of the composition hint at a more unnatural source, perhaps car headlights, a camera flash or maybe even an otherworldly emanation. Suddenly, any sense of certainty is suspended and a narrative dimension enters into our apprehension of the landscape. By refraining from bestowing a title on her paintings, Hearman further encourages the viewer to speculate and wonder what is about to happen or what may be lurking in the shadows.
- Odilon Redon, To Myself: Notes on Life, Art, and Artists (1922), Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman (trans.), New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986, p. 21.