BEHIND THE SCENES:
April 11th 2021
LUKAS HOFFMANN, CNAP ACQUISITION AND TWO EXHIBITIONS
Coming up on the one year anniversary of Covid; I am mindful of things that have escaped notice, small things, light against the wall in my new office. Very cold weather again in Paris, the sun unrelenting wants to say, spring is near. Temperatures falling. Small fires light vineyards and orchards across France, ominous as if even here, in the most basic of activities, wine making and fruit cultivation nature will not let us rest in this dark year.
Enough you want to say, isn’t this enough. To lose an entire year of wine or olives or fruit feels like a slap at the end of a long argument with nature; after premature spring and almost summer heat last month, hail, sleet, freezing temperatures again. Time and light, cold and heat. Relentless nature again.
Things do not look the same even if we think they are the same. Today a colleague will for the first time in a year have friends in the back garden of his London home for drinks. Paris is still confined. I walk daily as if I am my own pet, going out for air and to feel my legs taking quick steps again. Everything looks different. Is different. I have had the vaccine.
We are all changed. Even the most anarchistic among us — brazen in the face of this. Sneaking out to private gatherings, private bars, underground dancing and indiscriminate travels. I do not judge. Trying to outsmart this by staying in my shell like a turtle. Nose popping out from time to time. Catching light against the side of a building, or the turn of a man on the street near me, a car speeding at the light near the Hotel Bristol.
This is how seeing the patience in a black and white photograph by Lukas Hoffmann feels like art for this time. Of course these works were made earlier, but in their austerity I find comfort now more than ever.
These works he shows now in a gallery exhibition in Zurich* and a group show in Biel** reference moments in time when we thought life was there for the taking, a second lost as it presents itself in the blink of an eye, which is after all what we have when his shutter closes. In street scenes where he hides the small camera (not like the large box camera we recall from the pictorial landscapes redolent with detail).
I know this work; I have known this artist before and after he creates these works but I want to say that he has been making these works to show us now, in this spring of 2021, that these very moments are the best of all. The most important moment. Now. As all the wisdom traditions have been telling us, this expansive beautiful present moment is what artists fight to catch. Hoffmann is no exception. Like all good artists, he makes this fight disappear from our eyes. The photographs appear with a certainty of someone older than he is.
This old or timeless eye in his young body gives the tension to the forms that cry out for a wind or sing to us of time spent generating folds in a linen jacket hanging just so down the back of a man crossing the street. Or the light on a white tee-shirt becomes classical armour against ebony arms and neck of someone just there who becomes, in a split second, heroic, a god. Hoffmann’s subject is never what shows us, it is time itself, this moment. In this his work is conceptual not image based.
He has been lauded by CNAP in their acquisitions of two kinds of walls, one divined by mother nature, the other man made; again thinking of the fires between the repetitive rows of vines and olive trees, the regularity of nature belies her chaos. Hoffmann understands this and sees it as a given, with its complexity and its urgent now-ness. It is not that he uses the camera to stop time; it is that he can slow it down to us as light and shadow. A trauma inside appears, a crack, slowly opens into a pause, like a breath.
*(Passages (solo show) Galerie annex14, April 10 – May 22 2021)
**(Aeschlimann-Corti-Stipendium 2021 (group show) Centre d’Art Pasquart, Biel, April 18 – June 13 2021. Opening April 17, 11 am – 6 pm)