The Theatre of Landscape

Anita Hochman’s Recent Paintings

In Tristes Tropiques (1955), Claude Lévi-Strauss talks eloquently about sunset.  As daylight weakens the sun is for him an architect, and then, as the light falls away even more, it becomes a painter.  As night gathers, the imagination is released.

Anita Hochman, in her recent paintings has presented us with landscapes built of light, gathering darkness and enigma.  At first viewing they impress us as evocative, rather theatrical depictions of the coastal area in which the artist lives, but with contemplation they seem more and more provocative, mysterious.  There is a growing awareness of the artist conjuring these vistas like a circus ringmaster. Their openness invites us to walk these stages, bringing our own consciousness of place and time.

Hochman’s landscapes must remind us of other reflective spaces – Whistler’s Thames, Rothko’s maroon evenings, Turner’s sublime vistas, Vesterberg’s unpopulated dunelands, Henson’s cityscapes.  Perhaps it is black and white photography that can help us understand these paintings?  Hochman has noted that it is through photography rather than drawing that she builds her works, and she uses a range of silver/graphite/grey/black paint media in a seamless manner that is reminiscent of photography.  The paintings certainly do present the same timeless, grainy, textural tonalities that we can see in good black and white prints, and in art house cinema. Equally they are abstractions and move us between the painterly space and the realm of intuition. This artist shows us a world of grand gestures, dark places swept with light. These places are familiar, seductive, sometimes unsettling.

In their various dimensions, Hochman’s paintings hint at a variety of sources.  “Arc” (2006) is a long, slender work that is rather like an explorer’s topographical study of a horizon.  “Tregeagle Landscape” (2006), through its scale and grand proportions, reminds us of a theatrical backdrop.  “Wetland” (2006) is a diptych with a forensic, before-and-after, character. “The Bay” (2006) and “Tregeagle Landscape II” (2006) are both substantial landscape paintings – their size and ethereal emptiness make them quite arresting and intriguing.

Hochman, as an artist, is an architect of the half-light.  She lays out a back-drop, she constructs an arresting mis en scène, and she forces us to think about what to do next.  For me, in these paintings, there is a sense of our current zeitgeist.

Professor Mostyn Bramley-Moore, 2006
Director, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia