Louise Hearman

Louise Hearman, Untitled 1085, 2005Featuring painting and drawings from across 25-years of the artist’s practice, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) presents the first major museum survey of Australian painter Louise Hearman, currently on display until 4 December 2016.

“The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is delighted to present Louise Hearman’s first major museum survey spanning an impressive career,” said MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE. “The exhibition encompasses more than 50 oil paintings on masonite and a selection of works on paper.”

“Developed by MCA Curator Anna Davis in close conversation with the artist, it is based around a series of moods and atmospheres rather than a chronology, and reveals Hearman’s surreal and highly personal vision.”

The Melbourne-based artist is best known for her dark dream-like paintings where things may, or may not be, as they seem. It is up to us to imagine what is glimmering in the half-light or lurking deep in the shadows, as the artist offers no written clues to the evocative contents of her works, which are always left untitled.

Working at a small scale, predominantly in oil on Masonite, Hearman returns repeatedly to certain motifs; a child’s luminous face floating in a sea of darkness; the back of someone’s head; a glowing orb; a deserted road; an aeroplane gliding through a gloomy sky; a dog’s disembodied head; a phosphorescent sunset; a melancholic cloud; flowers; birds; cats; and perhaps most bizarrely, rows of giant shining teeth, smiling incongruously.

Melbourne’s bush and suburban landscapes feature prominently in her work; often captured at twilight or at sunset and incorporating otherworldly forms that imbue them with a supernatural quality. Hearman collects imagery for her paintings by photographing her everyday experiences. She mentally recombines these photographs with other images inside her head, and works in her studio to create unsettling compositions that transform the ordinary into something very strange.

With great technical skill and rapid brushwork, she focuses intently on capturing particular qualities of light in her subjects. Her disquieting images are reminiscent of fleeting sensory impressions, like something that is glimpsed but not quite seen, caught at the moment just before conscious apprehension.

“Louise Hearman’s paintings are often said to have a cinematic quality, and like film stills they capture transient moments of imaginary time,” said MCA Curator Anna Davis. “By combining commonplace imagery with personal visions of the unknown and the unknowable, Hearman’s surreal paintings hint at the compelling nature of our nonverbal thoughts.”

Louise Hearman is an award-winning artist who creates visually haunting, modestly-scaled pastel drawings and paintings in oil. She has been exhibiting consistently since the late-1980s and has appeared in a number of group exhibitions including Solitaire, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria (2014); National Artist’s Self-Portrait Prize 2011, University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane (2011); Wilderness, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2010); and the Clemenger Contemporary Art Award, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2009), just to name a few.

Hearman’s work is held in numerous collections including Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville; and various private corporate collections. Her portrait of Barry Humphries won her the 2016 Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, having previously won the 2014 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize for her portrait of her partner, photographer Bill Henson.

Louise Hearman
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), George Street, The Rocks (Sydney)
Exhibition continues to 4 December 2016
Free admission

For more information, visit: www.mca.com.au for details.

Image: Louise Hearman, Untitled #1085, 2005, oil on masonite – image courtesy and © the artist