“What use painting is to woman or man is unknown, yet it is surely necessary, as attested to by the caveman and the dandy. I have long pursued a path that avoided the health-plans and dogmas of the high-priests and the moneylenders, and yet have overthrown nothing but painterly cliches and visual platitudes. Over a career of fifty years I have disregarded the demand to produce series of signature works and failed to subjugate myself to mere talent. I am not looking to produce patterns; each period of painting has created, or found, its own identity. Sometimes the characteristics of the work, or foundations, carry over from one year into the next period. Or subside for a time before reappearing transformed, made new yet again. Paintings from the 2010’s can present aspects of the 70’s. The colour say, or the motif, or motive force, the brush-stroke, the time-line, the structure, its translucency or opacity, its serenity or punch. I have eschewed drawing, images, narrative and subject; I have defied the camera that always lies. I have told only the story of the brush that lies. I have quarrelled with the canvas and lost. I have found the surface and ignited it” Pete Hoida 2017
The Malthouse, formerly part of Stroud Brewery, is a formidable venue for an art exhibition. The bare rustic brick walls and vast height are no problem, however, for Pete Hoida’s central piece, ‘Poet and Peasant’ measuring a magnificent 178 x 335 cm. The painting completely holds its own and commands the space with its sublime passages of pastel shades in pistachio, turquoise, eau de nil, yellow and pink, offset by blocks of rich sumptuous carmine over-painted by muddy purple, smeared yellow into umber, earthy green and flashes of orange and red.
Hoida allows the under painting to show through creating a rich surface generating space and light. The two works with exaggerated horizontality are hung very high but still maintain a potent presence. Cork has a bold diagonal drive with strong pure colour blocks wedged between midnight blue and black fields to the top and side, with a bite of light yellow and a bar of pale ochre to hold the composition in place. Cobalt Patch has a steady rhythm of dry colour patches moving from one side of the canvas to the other with accents of red uniting the visual field. There are margins at either end, holding bands of colour, a narrower blue on the left and a large area of mixed reds through to orange on the right. The eye is guided to the central area of cream, red and black by sloping diagonal strokes within the blue and red margins. These two works read from side to side allowing the eye to pause at each new block of colour as if reading a scroll.
Sleeping Bee overcomes the constraint of an alcove with light fittings, and shines out with a substantial field of buttery yellow to the left travelling and narrowing across the canvas into a belt of lighter yellow merging into lilac grey with a sliver of green in between. The loosely painted blocks in a myriad of colours from peachy red to sandy umber act as ballast to offset the yellow mass and create a disrupted structure.
The three smaller paintings, Mrs. Joyce , Kittiwake and Vanilla, have hard edged and deliberate textural elements to them. They are sweet-toothed brutalist confections punctuated by iced gem motifs, flowing bronze squiggles, volcanic liquorice sheets and gritty rectangles hovering in front of a delicately painted backdrop of small mineral explosions in gaseous space. The colour married to the texture is especially compelling,
The most recent painting is High Voltage, an audacious composition with an ovoid floating in front of a black rectangular gash, centrally placed for maximum effect, challenging the viewer with its full frontal stance. The white ground behind holds ghostly images of the under-painting whilst being flanked half way up either side by panels of black, sienna, cerulean, umber and mint green. The delicate blue and green blocks on opposite sides are perfectly placed to hold the space and light within the painting. Incidental drips, drags and flicks offset the pristine dark magenta oval banded by earthy green.
What I admire and like about Pete Hoida’s work is; his exquisite use of a pastel palette in contrast to blended earthy mixes as well as potent primary colour; his thoughtfully created, poetic compositions with considered placing of shapes and constructed textures; his deceptively casual and seductive brushwork which, while gestural, feels completely managed yet free and fluid; and the way he can create space, structure and light with the choices he makes.
The Malthouse (GL6 6NU) exhibitions are organised by Lizzi Walton director of SITselect, and ‘Origins and Diversions’ Pete Hoida paintings 1991-2017 runs until 26th March.
Noela Bewry is an abstract painter and a contributor to Abstract Critical, a forum for discursive argument on abstract painting and sculpture. You can follow her on Twitter @noelawb as Noela James Bewry.