Alan Gouk on 'Pete Hoida, 'Black Morar Series' and 'Paintings 70's - 00's' July 2013

Sprechgesang by Pete Hoida
Sprechgesang, 2012, 92 x 243cm

Alan Gouk

Just been to the Hoida show. Mel Gooding is correct. Damson Hull is a museum picture, only he doesn’t say which Museum he has in mind. Can’t see what the fuss is about Big Pitman. The white centre sits just fine. For me, Sprechgesang is the best of the sprayed pictures. All in all, a very fine show from one of our best painters. Why the neglect? Because it’s just painting?

Just as the kinds of sonority Debussy introduced into music for the piano for the first time, in which a physical reverberation animates the air in the room in live performance, and there is an optimum distance from which the listener can experience it, taken up by later composers in many forms without ever quite surpassing it, - so, a genuine colour painting, as Sam perceptively commented some time back, ” charges the space” in front of it, so that there is an optimum viewing distance, and the colour resonances seem to hang in the air out in front, creating an atmospheric buzz, not so much an illusion as a physical-optical sensation – a simple fact about the truly modern picture. Not all paintings, however much they may rely on colour chording, achieve this or wish to achieve it. There are other forms of tangibility just as persuasive, but when it does happen, it is because the painter has subliminally been alive to the possibility and sleep-walked his way towards it – because to do so deliberately would probably undermine the possibility. The curious fact about Pete Hoida’s new paintings is that this animation of the air in front of the picture has occurred by keeping the colour quiet, with subtle gradations of greyed blues, violets and ochres against a grey ground, shading to black.

Damson Hull by Pete Hoida
Damson Hull, 2008, 136 x 324cm

It is gradation of colour which best gives atmospheric depth in painting, but here too it gives forward pressure, while strong oppositions assert the surface and the paint which carries them. Even in Damson Hull, from an earlier phase in Hoida’s work, the opposition of primary colours is avoided, mediated or interlaced with shades of grey [ though not fifty of them - sorry ], sometimes achieved by layering white strokes directly into black to produce a silken effect. This is a picture in which the physical surface is asserted more emphatically than in the sprayed-ground pictures which followed it, but between these two poles there is plenty of room for manoeuvre, and Hoida is well placed to continue to explore, – I’d say to mine this rich seam, if I hadn’t already banned metaphoric cliche from art-writing.

This is not the woeful subjectivity-run-riot of David Sweet’s advancing trains and trench warfare, though he too seems to have picked up on something about the “presentness” [Fried] of the modern picture. It used to be called " bodying forth".

There has been far too much subjectivity in art writing in recent decades. What we need is some simple though hard earned objectivity. The big question about "presentness" is whether it is founded on objective fact, or a delusion of the observing subject; and can there ever be a definitive answer when the possibility of "the objectivity of taste" is confounded every day. No matter how awful the art -- the Gallacher Bros, the Chapman Bros, --, there is always someone who is going to "like" it. I am not offering this analogy with Debussy's piano pieces [ Images, Estampes] as a direct formative or causal link with the recent Hoida’s, or as a validation of the methods of abstract painting in general, since they, [ music and painting ] are irreducible to one another – but just to indicate one aspect of the way the sensation of physicality in painting has mutated since cubism.

comment taken from Abstract Critical June 2013