On the Margins of Space …
Concerning the Landscapes and Interiors of Andrea C. Hoffer
The “I” is infinite to itself, meaning it is infinite in its view of itself. But the “I” by looking at itself becomes finite. This contradiction can only be solved in that the “I” in this finiteness becomes infinite to itself, i.e. that it regards itself as becoming infinite.
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling 
This contradiction, as complex as it may seem, is made visible in a very fundamental way in Tobago resident Andrea C. Hoffer’s pictures. It seems as if she has created these staged spaces for just this performance of existential conflict. From a purely typological viewpoint her pictures move between the interior and landscape genres without regard to clear boundaries between the two.
The mostly rather muted colouring of her tempera paintings – the twilight between light and dark – endows them with an eerie, dreamlike effect, which the absence of human protagonists enhances. The process by which the picture was created using multiple layers of glazed paint can be reconstructed by the viewer, becoming an intriguing and in itself contradictory experience. Areas defined by paint emerge from the repeated layering of vertical and horizontal, sometimes labyrinthically intertwining strokes, which in their interweaving can also convey perceptions of space. The ambiguity of surface composition and spatial concepts is therefore continually maintained. Interwoven in this structure are streaks of open colour that can evoke wind, atmospheric phenomena and the growth processes of plants. Natural forces and human intervention are in conflict, perceptions of exterior and interior can hardly be differentiated. An interplay emerges between composing and decomposing forces. Rhythmically pulsating, the surface condenses into physical sensations, which are then continually returned to the picture plane, a dynamic geared towards exceeding the images’ boundaries.
A billowing curtain, blinds rhythmically shimmering in musical cadences of colour, abundant ornamental tendrils proliferating across wallpaper and lively baroque décor infuse the pictorial scene. Andrea C. Hoffer’s pictures acquire their dramatic intensity from the interplay of differing forces, from both areas of calm and movement, which auratically charge the still life motifs which have been inserted, and transcend their physical presence in order to evoke moments of contemplation and introspection. Besides votive panels, images of the Virgin Mary and snapshots a scull can also be found which compresses the flowing, dynamically intertwined linear elements of the picture to a vanitas meditation. The permanently changing, amorphously floating structures of the picture harmonize with this symbolic reference, shifting between permanence and impermanence. The ephemeral is experienced visually as a fundamental category of visible reality.
In the use of interior and still life motifs the artist allows the viewer an insight into her private living space, her innermost self. Furniture, flower vases, lamps and other accessories create an atmosphere of the known and familiar, of an intimate proximity, confirming a bourgeois canon of values of security and gemütlichkeit – as an antipode to the atmospheric turbulences of the outside world. The interior, perceived as an inner psychological image, is linked to the motif of the studio, in which traditionally the artist’s self-image is programmatically expressed. Landscape, representing the external world, intrudes not only through an open window or a door. Rather the borders between interior and exterior are blurred, as restlessly sweeping movements of colour flood into the space from various directions and subvert sensations of calm and stability. Landscape experienced as infinite and the romantic feeling of the sublime intrude into the calm of the interior questioning its seclusion and security. A viewpoint which assumes a structuring perspective is decentred, becoming a noisy continuum which no longer exhibits any linear structure. Landscape, interior and still life are interwoven in a film set created for a plot consisting of natural and atmospheric phenomena. Detached from this, on an abstract, non-naturalistic level, a time-space-continuum is unlocked for the viewer which could be defined as infinite, resisting any tangibility whatsoever. These energies, however, are only able to unfold their efficacy as a conceptual counterpoint to the composed order of the space and its limitations. Clarification and mystification meet in constantly varying patterns and compelling combinations.
This is consistent with the working method of the artist who essentially prefers a plein-air situation in order to subject the picture in progress to the natural elements. She does not view nature’s intervention as interfering or entropic but rather as a chance element which is taken into account in the creative process. Processes such as erosion, leaching of colour or dispersal by wind are therefore not only traces of her own actions but equally effects of natural influences whose nebulous structures suspended within rigid right angular compositional frameworks can gain a crystalline precision and clarity. These interactions between creating and discarding are non-resolvable, containing an infinite range of possibilities. Artist and viewer enter into a mutual dialogue exceeding the boundaries of space in an eternal loop comprising the finiteness but also the infiniteness of existence.
Christoph Kivelit, Hannover 2009
 Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling: Works. Volume 1, Leipzig 1907
"Painting, certainly one of the most advanced theories of mankind, has shown that it inhabits a particular free space which enables it to be as complex as television or photography. Therefore it still continues to play an important role in the dialogue between people and their means of de picting the world."
Approximations of Reality
They are subtle and restrained rather than loud and shrill, uncompromisingly committed to depicting reality yet also strongly abstracted, they show landscapes as well as interiors which are characterised by the absence of people - the pictures of Andrea C. Hoffer who lives on the Caribbean island of Tobago truely answer the question "How is it still possible to paint today?"
Landscape as a subject of visual art, reality and nature as perceived by the artist, has always been a way for generations of artists to reflect their understanding of their world and times. As Max Friedlander remarks: "The land is the earth's surface, but it is the landscape, the earth's face, which really effects us ." Some of these effects are communicated to the viewer in Andrea C. Hoffer's latest works which depict contemporary landscapes and interiors. By juxtaposing views over Tobago's vast panoramas of lush, oppulent nature with views into transparent glass-walled architecture she builds up a tense pictorial relationship. The painter's primary interest is in using scenery which initially appears unspectacular and is taken from her immediate living and working environment. Nevertheless the pictures are not constrained by a purely naturalistic depiction of the imagery.
Andrea C. Hoffer does not document the landscape but makes a painterly translation. To achieve this, many of the source material's details are simply left out while others are emphasized. In this way the luscious Carribean vegetation is always present in the rooms flooded with light as well as in the landscapes themselves. Architecture is frequently hinted at by using lines or surface patterns which interface seamlessly with the vegetation. Inside and outside dissolve. These transitions are presented as shifting shapes immersed in a diffuse, almost unreal light.
Andrea C. Hoffer's large-format tempera paintings are purely organised by surface. Even though the artists does not attempt to create her own pictorial space she decisively breaks the canvas's two dimensions, which is mainly due to her standard composition scheme of repeatedly overlapping vertical and horizontal elements. Through this interplay of concentrating and dissolving elements and rhythmically compressing and then opening up the picture surface, she demonstrates, only to the extent she deems necessary, that the imagery has a particular spatial quality which finally leads the viewer's eye gently into the depths of the picture space. Another common aspect of all her scenes is the impression of seemingly fleeting moments frozen in uneventful spaces. A prevailing mood of quiet composure envelops each image which is enhanced by the absence of people. Andrea C. Hoffer's depictions of her Carribean life seem to explore an apparently pristine, natural environment. Nevertheless it is obvious that despite their would-be exoticness they are neither naive nor kitsch. The slightly restrained, but by no means only tropical atmosphere of these scenes is never depicted purely naturalistically nor purely realistically. While recording this tropical world in paint she raises questions she ultimately refuses to answer. Does the artist not create a peculiar contrast between her imagery and the colour scheme in her work? Does she not on the one hand enfold her paintings of rooms and landscapes in an unreal atmosphere and dissolve them into clear, transparent lines of paint and patterns while on the other hand limiting her palette to a very few shades in order to enhance the impression of uninhabited spaces?
In comparison to Andrea C. Hoffer's earlier work it is striking that the open structure has now become more closed, more complex and multi-layered. Her painting has been strengthened by a more visible use of paint and gesture which reveals the working process. The traces that were generated by the painting process now crucially define the nature of the paintings. This is noticable in a freer use of paint along with an increased transparency and intensity of individual colour values. The sometimes vigorously applied, apparently gestual pictorial elements create sensitively balanced and well-observed forms on the canvas support on which the artist works with a classical means of composition. Usually some of the primer is left visible in these egg tempera paintings on canvas, and these areas are balanced by those which are almost totally covered with paint. And yet, also in these areas the texture of the support remains visible. In these free spaces lies one of the distinctive features of these works in that by leaving areas open there is scope for free associations which could originate inside or outside the picture.
In her current works Andrea C. Hoffer demonstrates once again, to what extent painting in contemporary art has become a genre by which the painting process has become permanently self-reflexive. Hoffer's very concrete and at the same time abstract landscapes and interiors make them ideal for the viewer's own projections which can in turn enhance the paintings. The artist leaves her images in a finely balanced equilibrium between naturalistic and abstracted figuration. She restrains herself and ends the painting process at the point where something incommunicable is forced to remain unsaid, one which is only just or is no longer capturable in paint. Hoffer's works stand out in that the viewer brings something to the work, and these ephemerally created impressions are ultimately completed by the power of the viewer's imagination. Here Hoffer takes second place to the viewer's imagination. While Andrea C. Hoffer obviously takes great pleasure in painting she knows that a naive return to a painting tradition developed over 2000 years is impossible, but by accepting this her work appears both timeless and very contemporary. The fundamental criticism of perception following modernism is replaced in her work by a pragmatic construction of reality. This strategy has a utopian as well as a pragmatic dimension. A significant part of this utopia is characterized by an authenticity and a particular way of acknowledging the existence of the world, which the artist appropriates for herself by the act of painting. Hoffer's painting is therefore an integral part of a cognitive process whereby one realizes that the painted panel differs with astounding sovereignty from complex media constellations. This demonstrates to just what extent Andrea C. Hoffer's paintings stand for artistic authenticity. Considering this it seems obvious to use the following quote from Sean Scully also for her figurativeabstract pictures of the Carribean: "In my opinion a large abstract painting provides an opportunity to travel without having to endure the boredom of such a journey."
Dirk Steimann, Essen, Germany 2004
 Max Friedländer, Über die Malerei, München, Germany1963, p. 27
 Peter Pakesch, in: Painting on the move, Basel, Switzerland 2002, p. 198-199
Andrea C. Hoffer - West Indies
Editors: Fabien Fryns Gallery-Marbella, Spain; Galerie Frank Schlag & Cie., Essen, Germany; Kunsthalle Koblenz, Germany; Andrea C. Hoffer 1999
Text: Dr. Reinhard Spieler (deutsch / englisch / spanisch)
Translation: Isabel Basterra (spanish), Oliver Kossack (english)
40 Pages with 10 colored images
21,5 x 24 cm
Publisher: Beck & Eggeling, Kunstverlag Leipzig, Germany
Natural processes in painting"I was magically drawn in by the dramatic skies with their incessant transformation, rhythmic motion and changing light." What Andrea C. Hoffer experienced in Tobago may be applied to her works in equal measure. Drama, motion and light are just as important to her images as they are in any existing landscape.
It is not necessary to view her paintings in relation to landscape, for it is possible to discover them and grasp their essence without the latter as an objective point of reference. Indeed, Hoffer's imagery does not rely on willfully reproducing objective reality naturalistically, it being determined by the act of painting itself. Her manner of pictorial expression does not require even the most superficial reference to nature in order to exist. Her work at once seeks to define immaterial qualities of depth are transparency, the relationship of movement are stasis, to modulate light and colour and to combine areas of flowing painterly expression with more constructivist compositional elements. However, at a different level it becomes apparent that Hoffer pictorial concerns and concepts are analogous to natural phenomena, ultimately transporting a profound experience of nature. Hoffer's works recall Cezanne's vision of an artistic harmonie parallele la nature
. In spite of the overt harmony inherent to Hoffer works, primarily due to the artist's extraordinarily subtle use of colour and tonal gradations, they also disclose a powerful dichotomy. They confront the viewer with the antagonistic relationship of two independent principles.
On the one hand the works are marked by the ephemeral nature of incessant change, movement and transformation. Shapes and colours intermingle, blur, are barely defined. The viewer is ser wandering through turbid, mist structures, there are subtle, hardly visible shifts of colour and tone as well as atmospheric depth and density. Although Hoffer conjures volume by superimposing various layers of diffuse colour and perspectival illusion by modulating light, the actual space being refered to remains undefined. One feels surrounded by humid, tropical turgidity and senses a spatial dimension within the dense atmosphere. However, one also realizes that the latter is bound to the pictorial plane by means of light and by the mere fact of paint. Hoffer's works seem to breathe of their own accord, suggest atmospheric substance without alluding to space by means of perspectival constructs. Significantly however, the artist's characteristic style of painting itself accounts for an ephemeral impression of shadowy ambivalence. Adding and gradually removing paint creates transparent superimpositions of colour, the visible marks of the brushstroke unifying all areas of the composition, referring the illusion of depth back to the pictorial plane.
The traces due to this technique of "blurring" fulfill a similar function to that of Cezanne's characteristic passages, that tie various different pictorial elements to one another, and as such serve to disclose the inescapable two-dimensionality of the painted image. However, in contrast to Cezanne, whose passages rely on interconnecting different fields of colour somewhat resembling building blocks, to create a sort of tectonic pictorial order, Hoffer's method aims at achieving quite the opposite. She is overtly concerned with composition dynamics, her works offering intrinsic associations to fluidity, wind or even meteorological turbulence. Their curiously ill-defined, airy transparency seems more overtly reminiscent of the atmosphere of William Turner's oils.
However, this is but one side of the equation Compositional stringency serves to contrast qualities of the ephemeral, of movement, change and transparency. Without exception, all works of the landscape series are marked by a clear underlying structure of rigid angularity. Horizontal and vertical axes are defined by uncompromisingly straight lines. At an immediate level they seem to represent (horizontally) the ocean or the horizon line, or (vertically) trees. Beyond what these lines intrinsically connote, the compositions they are part of are entirely abstract. Hoffer regularly employs the motif of the cross in an attempt to mark compositional axiality rather than to describe any one aspect of objective reality. Orthogonal linear logic invests the underlying atmospheric diffusion with cristalline clarity and order: mathematical form versus the inestimable nature of billowing, gaseous, organic profusion. This fundamental polarity is a central theme with a long artistic tradition, ranging from German Expressionism (especially Franz Marc and Lyonel Feininger) back to Romanticism.
Although it is possible to view Andrea C. Hoffer's language of images as emancipated from what they signify, namely nature and landscape, (for her pain tings are primarily about painting itself, and the effect of their representing une harmonie parallele a la nature unfolds only and only if the viewer does not perceive them in relation to what they signify), embracing the opportunity to read them in their own terms paradoxically enough makes one realize that the creative processes which they embody are necessarily inextricably linked with a most profound experience of nature. All the works were executed en plein air amidst the Tobago countryside. Hoffer erected an easel before the landscape of her choice, the scale of her canvasses being just about as large as her own field of vision. Thus the artist's own physical radius determined the works' respective dimensions, to ensure the most naturally comfortable working conditions without having to resort to the aid of a ladder.
Moreover, Hoffer's works relate to the scope of her vision. Contrary to what one might expect, each respective painting is not a hermetically detached pictorial segment, but rather an integral part of a much broader panoramic sweep extending beyond its own bounds. First, Hoffer applies a thick coat of paint to her canvas, gradually removing it to attain a certain visual poetry by means of subtle transparencies within the various superimposed layers.
Painting using egg tempera enables Hoffer to dilute and remove colour with water, allowing her to incorporate natural processes directly. Daily tropical rain showers naturally began to play a decisive role in her work. In same respects reminiscent of Per Kirkeby, whose canvasses are characteristically marked by sedimentary superimpositions disclosing his decidedly geological approach to painting, Andrea C. Hoffer also consciously integrates certain natural phenomena in her works, or at least attempts to render these visible. Thus Hoffer's works are the material result of erosion by the natural elements of water and wind, without illustrating the latter naturalistically. The artist sums up her work as fallows, "I do not wish to intervene in nature, my painting is parallel to it."
She claims that the primary intent of travelling to this tropical island was calypso song and dance. She then discovered "the climate, the clouds, the immense sense of space above the endless sea". The viewer is baited at first by the simple fact of paint of canvas, to scrutinize subtly transparent hues and the unique hazy luminousity of her works which in turn are subordinate to an order of rhythmic linearity. This experience may serve to spiritually transport the viewer to the cloudy atmosphere of Tobago.
Dr. Reinhard Spieler