50 of Australia's Most Collectable Artists: Louise Hearman - Art Collector

Issue 51, January - March 2010

This profile appeared in the "50 of Australia's Most Collectable Artists 2010" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2010"

The heads float like disconnected memories. Disembodied, they hover above the clouds, threatening to collide with jet aircraft. They drift, images of innocence writ large and yet strangely threatening, their opalescent skin glowering against Stygian backgrounds.

Louise Hearman was always going to be an artist to watch. Born in 1963, she studied for a bachelor of fine arts at the Victorian College of the Arts where her reputation as a fresh new talent, a potential heir to Peter Booth’s dark throne, was quickly established. Her first solo exhibition in 1987 quickly confirmed the word on the street – The Elephant Room, the dome project at Melbourne’s Mission Seamen Building, was a dark and brooding affair, revealing a painter of dark chiascuro and nightmarish vision.

That was soon followed by solo exhibitions at Anna Schwartz’s City Gallery, the Robert Lindsay Gallery, Mori Galleries, Roslyn Oxley9, Tolarno Galleries and others, cementing a career that has been remarkably consistent. That was proven in 2008 with the lavish survey show, Hello Darkness: The Art of Louise Hearman, at the Glen Eira City Council Gallery.

That same year she exhibited at Melbourne’s Tolarno Galleries, inspiring Tony Lloyd to write on Artinfo.com that: “Jorge Luis Borges knew that a story could be 10 pages long or it could be three sentences, and importantly that a three sentence story is still one worth telling. The varying degrees of finish in Louise Hearman’s paintings remind me of this principle. Her capacity to paint richly with detail does not preclude her right to be loose and sketchy.”

Indeed, clearly Hearman has the capacity to leap from highly detailed realism to darkly rendered abstraction. Her most recent work hints at an homage to Goya – disembodied dogs and looming figures that could have been painted in the 17th century. Far from sitting on her laurels, 2009 saw new works exhibited at Roslyn Oxley9 and the Clemenger Prize at the National Gallery of Victoria that revealed elements of architecture and a comparatively newfound obsession with military-style aircraft.

Writing in Australian Art Collector 10 years ago, Jennifer Spinks noted that: “While things are only hinted at, alluded to, and mutely gestured toward in Hearman’s paintings, their withholding of information is never coy. They are direct in their evocation of place, of sensory impressions, of feelings that are tangible without being explicable, and of objects that have a sensual immediacy.”

That description is equally relevant today with an added element of urgency. Her recent works hover between the timeless and strangely timely.

Ashley Crawford

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