Visit to Pete Hoida's Studio, July 2021
Recently, contemplating a trIp to see Pete Hoida and his most recent work I re-read some articles on his website.
Alan Gouk in his 1994 essay described him as “fulgent and fuliginous colourist”.
That phrase is probably a mystery to most and requires a dictionary, but their use had a double effect of saving two archaic words, as well as,
once their meaning was learned, of being acutely apt.
The common use of these words peaked at different times In the 19thc, Fulgent’s peak in the early 1800’s means shining brightly: fuliginous, with the industrial
revolution in full swing, in the 1860’s, sooty and dusky.
Gouk must have been pleased with this phrase; so good, he used it twice in the same essay.
And so he should be, that phrase has been requoted often; it is visually onomatopoeic, if these words can be used together; perfectly evocative of t
he colours they describe!
Mel Gooding accredited Gouk’s phrase in his own essays on Hoida, also using it twice in his 2013 catalogue introduction to 'The Black Morar Series' at
The Museum in the Park, Stroud.
Societically I imagine these words as polar opposites; fulgent from the early development of British colonial domination, fuliginous the consequences of that
domination, industrialisation and modernity.
But in this context their uses are as extremes of a textural and colour spectrum, although I cannot think of any in-between words; perhaps there aren’t any,
but Gouk has also written of Hoida’s paintings as “a polarity between lyric sweetness and harsh contrast” and “sheer opposition of downy lyricism and dramatic harshness.”
Interestingly in his 2013 essay Gooding noted that “Hoida’s more recent work has become more cosmic”.
But more of that later.
I had these thoughts in mind when I recently travelled to the studio and home of Pete and Caroline in the Gloucestershire hills above Stroud to see work
painted since April, when the studio became warm enough to be used again.
But before lunch we talked of an earlier work in the house that Pete considered autobiographical but I was unable to decode in those terms, and others that
he suggested were possibly not abstract as I considered those and the autobiographical painting to be.
There has been a recent Instagram post by Jerry Saltz the NYT art critic which started a long thread of comments; “The artist's intent is always irrelevant.
An artist has no control over how a work is used”, whilst true, nevertheless seemed to miss the point. Intent is important although Hoida works intuitively his
intention is to paint, as he has done continuously for over 50 years since moving to Gloucestershire.
But re-reading Gouk’s perceptive 1994 essay, he linked the specific Gloucestershire landscape, it’s nature, it’s light and colour to the “inescapable aspect
of the temperament and character of the painter, for good or ill, like it or not.”
Not specific details, factual or historical, but seasonal, environmental and meteorological influences, leave their marks Perhaps there were no representations I could name or identify in that autobiographical painting, but it was another that grabbed my attention, “Freckled Beauty (Oct 2019)” a magnificent “six-footer”, to approximately appropriate a Constable term, that hangs in the house.(see photo1)
I was transfixed.
It has never been shown publicly.
It ought to be.
“Freckled Beauty” is a stunning painting, the best Hoida painting I have seen and certainly one of the best abstract paintings by any artist that I have ever seen.
That’s a big claim!
But of this development from around 2011/12 Gooding noted that “Hoida’s more recent work has become more cosmic in feel”.
If you look at his website there are many examples to which this adjective can be applied but the one I saw in the house was “Freckled Beauty”.
What appears to me that what might have been the beginning of this change was the increasing fluidity, thinness, of the base painting and the introduction of rectangular but loosely made rectangular shapes which by colour alone, of fulgent and fuliginous, bright and synthetic, and dark and dusky earth colours and their juxtapositions, create depths and spaces that regress or project and sometimes appear to do both, at the same time.
But this is not a Hoffman painting, an exercise of colour relationships, as the same processes of forwarding and recession are also occurring in the other component rectangles in the painting.
Even on much smaller paintings this openness, spaciousness, expands as detail and complexity increases.:
This is cosmic . . . not mimetic of a Hubbleque image, but evocative of those cosmological processes of an expanding universe, and of its opposite in scale, the weird physics of sub-atomics.
From the very beginning of non-objective art in the early 20thc art has paralleled physics in its investigations of the nature of reality and reality really is more complicated than previously thought.
A painting such as ‘Freckled Beauty’ is modern but it’s not modernist, it’s beyond that category, but postmodern would be misleading as that implies cultural and visual appropriation of older ideas and imagery.
That’s definitely not the case.
But sit back, take time, stop thinking for a while, just look.
But sometimes the oldest words are the most appropriate and “Fulgent and Fuliginous” are still the best, and sheer opposition of colour and forms still describe these newer works.
Time has moved on and so has Hoida’s work and those qualities have become better and better.
‘Freckled Beauty’ unseen by many is the best Hoida that I have seen, but there were many others in the studio with their faces to the wall, painted since the spring, that I was not allowed to see,
Only Pete and Caroline know what others are awaiting discovery.