Mel Gooding

Catalogue introduction to 'The Black Morar Series' at The Museum in the Park, Stroud, June - July 2013

Bad Mambo by Pete Hoida
Bad Mambo, April 2011 - September 2012, 102 x 120 cm

Peter Hoida: Abstraction and Nature

‘How all things flash! How all things flare!

What am I now that I was then?

May memory restore again and again

The smallest colour of the smallest day...'

Delmore Schwartz

‘Well, in truth, colour can only be rendered "non-referential" by suppressing the best of itself, its natural sensuous propensity to evoke sensations of space directly out of its fulgently or fuliginously inscribed flatness. And no art of consequence has in the long run entered the hearts and minds of the art-loving public (the discerning ones) by suppressing the full eloquence of the medium.’ These wise words of Alan Gouk were written in specific relation to the sources of Pete Hoida’s extraordinary colour sense: Gouk suggests that, in ways inaccessible to analysis, Hoida’s colour comes of his daily experience of the countryside around his Gloucestershire home and studio, through the seasons of the year, with flower bloom and tree leaf, dawn light and shadows of dusk, and the changing light of soft summer and hard winter.

I have found myself that a visit to any painter’s habitat tends to be strangely illuminating. A prevailing colour or tonal bias, a quality of light, an opposition of opacity to aerial or aqueous atmospheric effects, certain persistent forms or shapes: such features seem connected in almost subliminal ways with aspects of the circumambient world. So it is, surely, as Gouk insists, with Hoida’s distinctive ‘fulgent and fuliginous’ colourism.

The Pearl-oyster and the Fox-fur by Pete Hoida
The Pearl-oyster and the Fox-fur, November 2009, 65 x 221 cm

But that is not by any means the full story. Artists carry into their work a particular and unique sensibility and history of sensation. It is a quality that derives from experiences of colour-pleasure that long precede their becoming artists. It has become part of their inner aesthetic; it is a component of their sensibility. It may find time to be assimilated into the synthesizing action of painting, gesture and stroke, emphatic or light of touch; it is an action that requires a multiplicity of smaller movements, of eye and hand combined, in the selection and mixing of the colour that will be transported by brush or palette-knife to canvas. In Hoida’s case there is something utterly personal in his delicious tonalities, mid-colour purples, pinks, grey-blues, magentas and turquoise, mixed, over-laid, subtly, silkily textured.

I first became aware of Hoida’s painting some ten years or so ago and was struck immediately by two distinct features: the first was its distinctive colour range, or rather the exquisite tonal variation that informed every long stroke in those spectacular horizontal compositions. The second was, in fact, that structural feature itself: it was as if by a painterly paradox Ivon Hitchens’s famously horizontal abstractions from natural landscape had been turned in the opposite direction, so to speak, and these beautiful abstract colour movements across the canvas were becoming images of the natural. The surfaces had their own complexities of natural colour, light and shade; colours restored by memory, conveyed by the material mix of the brush’s load.

Implements in their Places by Pete Hoida
Implements in their Places, August 2012, 97 x 200 cm

Hoida’s more recent work has become more cosmic in feel. The surface action takes place in formally structured, tightly controlled horizontal movements of scribble or impasto, set against unfathomable greyish skies of translucent wash. There is more turbulence, a more immediate surface-versus-depth drama. But he has also introduced formal, geometric devices that anchor our eyes at strategic moments to the canvas surface, and disrupt the sensation of natural, phenomenal activity. ‘This is a painting,’ they say: ‘attend to the object itself; observe its mechanisms.’ But who can stop the play of the imagination? Hoida is a poet: there is nothing in his painting or his poetry that would suggest he would want to. He just likes to remind us that an artifact is just that: an object made with craft and cunning, the product of a specific sensibility, a mind and a memory, in time and space.

Mel Gooding 2013

Reproduced from the exhibition catalogue, ISBN 978-0-9562038-9-2