Wade Hoefer’s unique relationship with the land developed early, during his formative years, when he supplemented his income supervising itinerant labourers in a vineyard and working as a landscape designer. He lives and works in Sonoma County, an area north of San Francisco, known for the beauty of its variegated Mediterranean vegetation and the quality of its wines. He is proud of his botanical knowledge, and can recite genus and species of countless plants, yet despite his love for the land, his work has never been referential. His paintings lack any identifiers that can link them to any particular place. They are landscapes of the heart, places where the figure is noticeably absent and Man’s intercession mercifully discreet, without telephone wires, roads or fences to distract us from their harmony and completeness. They are paintings of love, a paean celebrating the artist’s unique relationship with Nature.
For Hoefer each painting is a mandala, a meditative device that allows the viewer to enter, through the work, into a deeper world. His choice of subject matter stems from our common understanding of the landscape; it becomes a visual vocabulary, a lexicon that can be endlessly repeated. For like the Sung painters of ancient China, the landscape becomes a vehicle for an inner voyage that can take the viewer into a spiritual world. Hoefer calls the central elements, these paintings-within-paintings, luminosos, suggesting that for him they are a source of light, a reflection of a truth within, that reveal a window into a deeper, private space. Densely painted in oils and richly patinated, the luminosos establish the reality of the work, always painted from memory. The formal relationship between Hoefer’s backgrounds and the luminosos enables him to develop a tension between abstraction and figuration. The backgrounds, achieved by the multiple layering of colour, are the constructs for deeply atmospheric images, richly veiled with hues of honey and amber that serve as formal frames for the painting. They allow him to develop the push-pull physicality of the work, creating heraldic ghost images that by entering in and out of focus confuse our sense of memory.
“The landscape is what I know, it’s the only thing I’m sure of”, asserts the artist. “Remove the landscape tradition from painting and you’re left with a sense of loss: it’s innately cherished by people. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel; I’m only part of a continuum. These works are meant to slow the velocity of life, to be conversant with a sense of place in history, that continuum, a part of a long tradition. Much painting today is ephemeral, trendy or fashionable, and the casualties are many. Can we honestly say that the works will continue to reveal of themselves increasingly with time, that they will hold up in ten or fifteen years? My work is made by hand, wrought in a soulful way. We’re only human, and we want confirmation of that.”
Wade Hoefer has created this work during his stays at our studios between 1999 and 2005, a period of intense creative activity for the artist. The landscape of the Empordà, its coast, the pine and oak-covered hills and the meander of the River Ter, the Montgrí, the ancient olive groves, the solitary cypresses and the thousand year-old stone villages have all served as inspiration for this work.