PETER HOFFER at Bau-Xi (340 Dundas West) until April 30. 416-977-0600. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Peter Hoffer's show of recent paintings offers landscapes with a lingering, sad beauty. Lots of big skies and skinny trees. There may be nothing in this work that challenges the viewer, but the technique is mesmerizing.
Somehow he has trained the materials themselves, rather than his subjects, to communicate the beautiful.
Using wooden boards as supports for some works and canvas for others, Hoffer drips and layers acrylic paint on rough surfaces, finishing them off with a thick coat of clear resin that he pours on. On canvas, he gets a craquelure effect that flirts dangerously with the clichéd, but on wood the glassy surface over rough paint works.
Most of the colours are muted blues (sky), greens (foliage) and browns (earth). The compositions vary, but the best feature small foregrounds and lots of sky. Hoffer blurs the background foliage with nondescript brush strokes, and often composes the entire image around a single tree that stands like a vegetable version of an exclamation mark.
My favourite, Ille, skips the single tree for a mass of greenery that refuses to resolve into an image without a longer look.
In many pieces, he has scratched, burned and worn down the finished image, roughing it up to look old and eroded, revealing buried layers of paint and sometimes the wood underneath before preserving it in his glossy resin.
This wear reads as beauty, because things acquire beauty with age. Relying on the effect too much could become a cheap trick, and the last thing Hoffer wants is to become the fine art version of a store in a mall selling brand new antiques.
Of course, this has all been done before and will be done again. Hoffer just happens to be very good at it.