Dream Window, Jeanne Hoffman’s second exhibition with the gallery, was shown recently at Salon 91, a boutique-sized venue on busy Kloof Street in Cape Town, South Africa. The Salon 91 building, with its large, tinted-green face, stands right up against the pavement catching much attention, on this active street filled with restaurants and bars.
The friendly security guard sanitizes hands before buzzing the door, which opens into one long rectangular room containing a wooden desk. The walls are completely white except for one blue wall that sits at the far side of the gallery, and a blue panel displaying three or so of Jeanne’s paintings. Hoffman, whose work has appeared at Stellenbosch, Glen Carlou, and SMAC art galleries, is a South African contemporary/postwar artist, and travels extensively as part of her collaborative efforts.
Set upon the Italian cotton canvases in wooden box frames is a mixture of buildings, interiors, and flowers – painted or abstract, and rendered in multiple; as thin, watery, acrylic layers of soft pinks, peach, greys, blues and little bursts of green – the depiction of which is beautiful and painterly.
Dream Window (1992) is the name of a documentary about Japanese gardens and discusses the aesthetics of ancient horticulture. The viewer is also made aware of the title Dream Window for the surreal placement of windows and arches in many of her paintings. Here, solid planes of blue painted from various nonsensical perspectives pop out through grey and pink interiors filled with walls and stairs, creating illusive and disorienting scenes.
The names given to each artwork read like small, docile thought snippets from a journal and add strongly to interpretation, with titles such as “Reading the world from a gradually widening point of view.” “Self Portrait as a Vase” for example, conveys the tenacious connection a flower vase must have with a window, absorbing the sun and shade in cycles, as it peers endlessly into nature. The orange and dark brown vase sits centrally on a yellow windowsill, its flowers behind a curtain, where they attempt to peek in from each of the sides.
Not particularly naturalistic or political, the style Hoffman employs: the soft, warm color-scheme, her quirky painting titles, etc., instead require the viewer to linger upon the artist’s painterly marks and varied technique. Occasionally, the works are overly abstract and where all hope of making connections should be abandoned. However, some may find this contemplation an enjoyable mental exercise or will feel content with the various visual aspects.
Written by: Ronan Barrington Quinlan