Peter Hoffer’s ‘Common Ground’ presents a selection of new paintings from a series that focuses exclusively on the symbol of the tree. Each work’s central tree subject is distinct and its unique character is silhouetted against a natural minimal backdrop of transitional sky and neutral field. The peripheral flora, which may otherwise be overlooked as commonplace, is composed in a manner that draws recognition. While meditating on a static moment in a landscape, the idiosyncratic qualities of the tree, or arrangement of foliage which make it unique, are meditated on and given a subtle dignity. Although the subject of landscapes and trees originate from specific locations, the settings could be anywhere or, at the least, nowhere specific. The artist says: “When observing a particular tree or landscape, I want to insert a feeling of familiarity rather than of an alien or exotic place.”
THE EPOXY RESIN PAINTINGS OF PETER HOFFER: An Essay by Gary Schulz, 2018
The surfaces of Peter Hoffer’s landscape and abstract paintings are coated with a highly reflective resin varnish. This material was chosen as a means to create tension between a painted surface and refined encapsulation. This packaging of the “objet d’art” stills a moment in space and time and alludes to an item of value, not unlike religious reliquary. This process of exaggerated surface varnishing was extracted from the historical 19th century practice of Parisian-style Salon exhibition. ‘’ Le Vernissage,” which in English is known as the “Opening,” was a regular event among painters to re-varnish or shellac their works. This would refine the painting and give it a new and freshly completed appearance. If the Artists painting failed to sell, the painting would travel onto the next Salon and the process would be repeated. For Hoffer, this suggested an unsold painting would be subjected to multiple varnishings, and the image would eventually be obscured by the many layers of resin.
Initial works (1996-1999) were created using traditional methods of varnishing. A damar varnish was applied in multiple layers, often 10 to 15, over an extended period of time. Paint was sometimes applied in between certain successive layers creating a sense of depth and dimension. It was later (2000) that many of the paintings integrated a synthetic resin material. This at first was used as an outer shell to the piece. An epoxy and acrylic coating was applied over the damar varnish, stabilizing it and allowing for a thicker doming effect. The surface would now be raised by 1/8 of an inch to as thick as ½ inch.
Inconsistencies including discoloration and surface cracking are intentional and integral to the resin paintings. Many of these works have surfaces with various anomalies within the mixed resins. Surfaces are often layered off-center thereby exaggerating the inconsistent topography. Random scratches, sporadic markings and various abrasions may appear throughout the shell of these particular works. For the Artist, this sets up a necessary balance between the naturalness of the painted and organic landscape and the artificial sense of the precious “objet d’art.” A contrast is emphasized between the controlled hand of the Artist and the force of the material. In a sense, the painting adopts certain characteristics within the landscape, forever changing and evolving as material breaks down and alters composition. On several pieces, the works were subjected to the extremely cold temperatures of the Quebec winter. The harsh environment etches and stresses the thickly varnished painting prematurely, cracking the brittle varnish, and sometimes bleaching and altering the structure of the surface.
Reference is made to theatrical backdrops. The rapid execution of these paintings creates a generalized suggestion of a place or setting. The viewer is both the actor in the scene and becomes a player within a scenario where the trees and landscape are personified and situated within the stages. A notion of pending drama looms in the err of these works. The time of day or location of the “self” are called into question as the viewer sees beyond the distraction of the glossed surfaces.
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