Louise Hearman

Untitled 454, 1996
oil on board
90.5 x 67.0 cm
signed and inscribed with title (on the reverse)


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Mori Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney since 1996

Louise Hearman's moody and uncanny landscapes embrace the transformative power of darkness, summoning the sense of danger that is often associated with the rural Australian landscape. In 'Untitled 454' (1996), what appears to be a deep swimming pool occupies the foreground of the image, with one single splash punctuating the water to suggest the presence of a mysterious unseen inhabitant. In the background, dark trees are overshadowed by suggestive storm clouds that add to the atmosphere of foreboding and sense of uncertainty. The surreal yet beautiful landscape appears to rise from the deep shadows of the subconscious, to which the viewer is both drawn to and fearful of.

  • Untitled 454

Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Louise Hearman is Australia’s leading practitioner of the uncanny. Her paintings invite the viewer in with a beautiful and familiar point of reference – a landscape; an animal; a portrait – only to have this initial illusion broken by a startling, at times sinister point of contrast – a legless figure floating above a moor; or the face of a child emerging from the anthers of a flower. It is this irrational and inexplicable characteristic that gives Hearman’s work its seductive quality.

Stemming from a school of artists out of Melbourne who deal with the darker side of life – Albert Tucker, Peter Booth, Bill Henson to name a few – Hearman since her first exhibitions has created a unique, almost gothic style with a vocabulary of potent symbols, bold, painterly brushstrokes and a masterful control of light. Taking after the surrealists, Hearman is candid about the automatic nature of her process saying that often while painting “You wake up half-way through and wonder what you’ve been doing.” That surreal tendency, and especially the pairing of nature with young girls, is reminiscent of Dorothea Tanning, with whom Hearman shares a fascination with the disquieting and the bizarre.

Born in Melbourne in 1963, Louise Hearman studied at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, and began exhibiting in 1987. Most recently, a major solo exhibition Louise Hearman: Against the Grain was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2016. In 2016, Hearman received the Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales; and in 2014 she received the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.