Louise Hearman

Untitled #898, 2002
oil on composition board
61.0 x 60.8 cm
signed, dated and inscribed with title '#898/Hearman 02' (on reverse)

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Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
The Austcorp Group Limited Art Collection, Sydney

Louise Hearman, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 16 October - 15 November 2003, cat. 9

Louise Hearman's work is characterised by a sense of unease and the uncanny, often produced by the extraordinary treatment of ordinary objects and living beings. Her paintings are highly idiosyncratic and feature reoccurring themes such as empty roads, airplanes and floating figures - often animals and children. In 'Untitled #898' (2002), a dog's head hovers just above the ground. Both the dog and lawn look domestic and would appear perfectly natural were it not for the animal's absent body.

Hearman gives exquisite detail to the rendering of the canine's form, as well as the shadow it casts across the grass. By fixing her subjects with an intense white light, the Melbourne artist evokes a subtly eerie atmosphere. We are drawn inside her strange world, but also kept at a certain distance, never fully knowing the meaning of it all. This ambiguity produces an important tension in Hearman's paintings, and is further amplified by the artist's consistent use of the titling convention 'Untitled'.

  • Untitled #898

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.