Spectral presences are often found in Louise Hearman's darkly toned paintings. Children hover above fields, massively out of scale heads seem to appear in trees, disembodied creatures lurk in the undergrowth. While Hearman also paints portraits and genre subjects, some of her most evocative works have been landscapes caught somewhere between daylight and twilight, strangely both darkly toned and brightly lit. While a passing glance may suggest a familiar melancholic vision of the land, a longer gaze reveals the surreal scenes that populate Hearman's landscapes.
In 'Untitled #836' what appears to be a gum tree in the centre of the painting harbours a dogs disembodied and massively outsize head. It looks back at us - still, passive and yet potentially nightmarish. It is just there, partially lost in the shadows as it's form dissolves back into the colour tones of the tree and clouds. While her work has a sense of an Australian gothic to it, the very stillness of the imagery is more dreamlike and inexplicable than horrible or threatening.
Australian painting has often flirted with the gothic, as has literature and film. It seems to be a cultural 'other' to our prevalent obsession with comedy and humour. In Hearman's paintings a sense of a 'paraphysical', somewhere between the metaphysical and the paranormal, is achieved through these displacements of scale and juxtapositions of subject matter. In her gently surreal imagery the artist's subconscious finds an agency in our everyday world.
oil on masonite
68.5 x 91.0 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Dr Colin and Mrs Elizabeth Laverty 2005
Not on display
© Louise Hearman
Shown in 1 exhibition
Louise Hearman, Mori Gallery, Sydney, 18 Jul 2001–25 Aug 2001
Referenced in 1 publication
Donna Brett, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Expression and the figure', pg.108-153, Sydney, 2006, 132, 133 (colour illus.).