Estelle Lovatt

Catalogue introduction to 'Pete Hoida, Dr Viper' at HSoA Gallery, November 2015 - January 2016

Testament by Pete Hoida
Testament, July 2014, 105 x 228 cm

It’s always nice to visit an artist working away in his studio. Pete Hoida’s studio is encircled by lush English country gardens so it’s obvious to say his paintings are the immediate consequence of his surroundings, and that he owes much of his painting to this fact. So it’s no shocker or great revelation to assume that Hoida marries his garden to his canvas.

Not that Hoida’s canvas is meant to depict and capture his picturesque scenic garden, no. It’s more like you are enveloped, virtually surrounded, by the experience of looking at his large artworks – like experiencing Monet’s ‘Nymphéas’ series.

Significantly, serendipitously, meaningful – for me, at the time of writing this, in the Hampstead School of Art (HSoA), I’m surrounded by construction work. Sitting in both HSoA and Hoida’s garden, reminds me of what I see in his paintings, from ‘Beautiful Pylon’ to ‘The Astonished Eyes of Haddock’. Simply put, I am surrounded by structures from man-made hard-edged building blocks to natural, shapely, curved ovals.

Returning from Hoida’s studio, I look at the photos I snapped of his canvases on my phone and they look... exciting.

So what makes Hoida’s abstract art any better, or indeed any more significant, than any other abstract artist say, Ivon Hitchens or Hans Hofmann? Hoida’s is of a more lyrical, European form of Abstract Expressionism as opposed to that of our American cousins. Hoida is an English artist carrying on the grand traditions of English art from Constable’s ‘Six-Footers’, to a euphoric use of colour that Hoida controls so well, so evocative but so differently spiced than Patrick Heron. Hoida is a superb colourist, his palette is his own, and his art is to do with the essence of painting. What you see is... what you see. They are BIG. Size matters. Scale contributes to meaning seen large.

After you’ve established yourself in front of the large canvas, and colonized yourself, firm-footed within the canvas of fertile structures, their effect is immediate. Nose to canvas surface, I can clearly see and scrutinize thick, lip-smacking, heavy textures of impasto paint application as Hoida takes ownership of a Velazquez-like brush mark. Engaging scribbles, streaks and slashes of mesmerising colour explode, wave and drag at pigment, often brushed over, sometimes patted on, occasionally squirted directly from the tube, meeting in-between perky ornamentation and minimalist figuration. Relationships of architectonic slabs of textured pigment wedge up colour-dominated fields of transcendentally sublime fabricated rainbows of hue, modelled and moulded, over the elastic picture surface.

Company by Pete Hoida
Company, October 2014, 146 x 110 cm

If you are an ‘abstractophile’ you’ll love Hoida’s colour and animated forms filled with non-objective subject matter. In compositions of startling originality and endless invention, Hoida’s cool pastel colours sit by hot primaries. An energetic and muscled handling of paint, long, still moist-looking strokes of gooey paint, to dry, scumbled stains. Hoida’s colours are aglow from soft butter-yellow to Whistler-slate grey-black, through jungle-leaf green to Leighton’s flaming-orange, crushed raspberry to Turner’s earth tone sienna. As Matisse directs colour, and Ellsworth Kelly shapes it, Hoida constructs it.

Often superimposed, without destroying its simplicity, colour makes space with a feel of Chinese perspective about it, in that it doesn’t have one vanishing point – it has many vanishing points. Hoida’s blanket perspective, piecemealed together, is marshalled to explode the picture surface and collide, erupt and combine the picture plane, as Hoida questions if the space created is real or imagined. Surface or subterranean? Natural or man-made, like Monet’s garden, which was, in effect, plastic?

With a tapestry-like surface of poetic symbolism, when you are close up to the canvas, the reading of it collapses and its focal point has no root. Hoida’s shapes escape hard solidity, liquefying into shimmering shades of colour that settle as unique effects of coloured veils layering themselves out, on, and proud of the picture surface, frieze-like in relief. Neither graphic nor illustrative, any figurative form of representation is contemporaneously coincidental and concomitant. Making Hoida’s canvas not just a picture, but an artefact; an object in its own right. Completely balanced, Yin and yang in the East, Adam and Eve in the West.

As an actual, or imagined, experience, what goes into Hoida’s canvas is not simply a picture, but an event. Its impact is down to Hoida. And you. As far as the eye can see. If you hadn’t noticed it, there are two distinctive Hoida-shaped canvases, from near square to long horizontal-rectangle. I value the disciplined format of a Hoida-horizontal shaped canvas. Let me call it a Hoida-Horizontal. A formal structure that is an object in itself, it is not a suggestion of the earth or human race. A Hoida-Horizontal is not a reflection of the world; it is a part of it. As in, ‘The Rivet’. Then again, alliances are not of the landscape, nor by the landscape, and neither are they of abstract shapes that come from the landscape. Any similarity is purely coincidental. Hoida satisfies fields somewhere in between abstract and figurative work.

The Rivet by Pete Hoida
The Rivet, June 2015, 102 x 205 cm

In some of Hoida’s canvases there lies a shape, a defined and particular shaped shape. A shape that hogs the limelight from other shapes as it travels around his canvas. A sort of an eclipsed-egg shape, a superellipsed squeezed 'squircle'. This is Hoida’s self-created signature shape. It’s as if Hoida has designed a personal letter font. I’ll name it the 'Hoida-Oid'. The Hodia-Oid dictates Hoida’s composition. This unique Hoida-Oid actor shape greets you in one canvas, and then revisits you, across from another, in ‘Company’, before changing costume and going to ‘Dr Viper’.

As Hogarth tells a story, such as ‘Marriage A-la-Mode’, where a set, a series of paintings are seen as part of a group, and act like a movie’s storyboard or flip-book, where actors play across the stage, Hoida also tells a story in his canvases; the star-of-the-show; the Hoida-Oid. An extreme fusion of the robust leading-actor’s blaze and delicate side-kick fluff, both are necessary in the balance, Holmes to Watson, for the purpose of motion and animation, as the Hoida-Oid travels around the canvas, before reappearing in another, like an actor on stage, Act 2 Scene 1. It is Hoida’s direction-less operatic-extravaganza of a music-like composition about structure, spatial illusion and colour relationships that make his play pictorially and pictographically individualistic. His hand and eye are combined as one, as Hoida’s creative technical calculations are measured both philosophically and ideologically, as in ‘Testament’, and, ‘Funny Valentine lV’, where forms interact. Then clash. Delineate and curve, build up and build upon.

Hoida’s artwork is decorously full of supporting art historical standards. The abstract artist sews threads of art history in to his canvas weave, thankful for the invention of the camera freeing him up. What interests me about abstract art today is how it can survive amidst the practice of post-internet technological progress; as technology has changed the way(s) we see Abstract Art. And how Abstract Art can still remain relevant today because his art is free of obstruction from either memory or motif so that his picture doesn't become a thing, as simply as a monogrammed designer luxury good is a thing. Today, an ever-misty line of alliance exists between an abstract painter and the viewer confused by the commitment Abstract Art requires of you to become involved with the artwork in a way that is very different to how we have come to look at things through the computer, laptop, tablet and mobile phone experience. What we have, in abstract art returning to a more primitive form of communication, is the accepted science of cognitive reasoning developing intuitively and perceptively, with Hoida’s abstract art offering a new visual experience of opportunity – that technology does not, cannot, offer. Hence, Hoida’s art doesn’t look like it could have been done by an internet automated bot.

If, all the same, you have no understanding nor respect for the practice of colour or pure abstraction, you’ll question what your personal response to Hoida’s artworks should be with a ‘What is it?’, ‘What am I meant to feel whilst I look at it?’, ‘What is it supposed to be?’ So simple, it’s complex. Let me tell you what it is, it is itself. And, if you can see a baddie villain destroying a cartoon city in it, so be it – our knowledge of the world informs what we ‘see’ in abstract art, but, honestly, abstract art is a way of seeing, in itself.

© Estelle Lovatt FRSA 2015

Reproduced from the exhibition catalogue, published by HSoA ISBN 978-0-9931047-1-8