My visit to her studio on Saturday 12th September resulted in her invitation to respond to her two paintings, Tropical Ravine and Studio Interior.
On my PC screen the tactile messages of air temperature are absent, forever broadcasting how the experience is locked in hues and tones. The paintings rejects simple classification – it is a landscape if I let my eye to fix on blues, it is a still life when I focus on the yellow and greens. I recall that Cezanne surprised me once by keeping the same temperature all over his landscape, an unfinished landscape at that. It hung in the last room of the monumental exhibition at Grand Palais, up on the wall as if not wishing to be registered. Display matters, and maybe the curator deliberately treated it as a note, as a preparation for something big which stayed in the never ending future. Instead- I read it as finished, in spite of large areas of white canvas with fleeting drawings of trunks and branches just about commanding an elegant asymmetry. It had a “personality” – the South of France, its warm air, lush uninhabited meadows and woods in between rivers. It had “a character” by staying silent , by silently standing in front of the canvas. It was a live painting of living trees.
I sense that Tropical Ravine aims at a character and at capturing life. I also sense the asymmetry between the top and the lower part of the composition. Another asymmetry is born out of sudden appearance of dark heavy hues in the all over high key palette. That and the painter’s contrasting the geometry of manmade forms with the abundance of inventive nature forges a discord that mirrors the gap between the intention and the insecurity of the creative process.
The painting is a memory of Hackett’s aesthetic experience when face to face with the nature kept captivated for its own good. Imprisoned freedom. Her painting transfers to me the contradictory response – one of dionysian intoxication of yellows and greens and the other of colder blues pointing to the apollonian principle. The painting thus is a drama between intention and necessity, both in the real world and on the canvas. And it works even when you turn it 90 degrees….
The sensual riches – like music- overwhelm any verbal approximation. Ut pictura poesis – if only.
The high key governs the painting of the Studio Interior – again in a sincere nod to modernism. Sugary sweet – it would be in danger of losing any gravitas, had it not been for the tables and windows. And – the visual rhythm. The verticals not only build the depth they also lead the eye to make groups of movement of short with long, the angled with en face flat. The horizontals are allowed to work like a worktop to catch something with the window to look through and out of the busy space- not dissimilar to that in the right hand side wing of the Merode Altarpiece. St Joseph is making a mousetrap, a visual metaphor for the immaculate conception to cheat the devil. The chaotic diagonal marks are full of promise and energy kept under the radar, as it were. The palette knife and the jar, tubes of paint are static as if they were the target of that energy. The table is either split or next to another piece of furniture, I am not sure. That insecurity is intentional – and vibrant when viewed in the paintings full size. The size adds to the meaning – in this case, numerous small juxtapositions of brush strokes vanish when on the PC screen, so much smaller. The whispered groups of rectangles, on the table, under the table, in front of the table, behind the table underpin the live chaos so appropriate for the brushes and palette. Yet – keeping in the key. Like Bach’s fugue.
I use the word chaos – where the artist might prefer ambiguity. Both belong to the family of thoughts connected to universe, to the uncertainty we daily live with but do not think of it at all times. It is a gift of painting – to free us from the more dark thoughts by inventing interesting modes of making a world, that is like the one we know – and is – different. The valuable part of that paradox is that it is capable of celebrating both imagination and observation.
Images courtesy Angela Hackett