Sasha Pierce and Jeremy Hof at Jessica Bradley Art + Projects

published in Canadian Art, Summer 2012
The exploration of paint as a physical material with three dimensional substance and body has been an enduring fascination within painting for sometime. From the discreet passages of impasto in pre-modernist works to the bombastic, comical employments of many contemporaries, the specificity of paints corporeal consistency has remained an alluring device. The signature stamp of many painters over the last hundred years has been embodied less frequently by scrawled, written characters than by an idiosyncratic material sensibility. The exhibition, “Paint as Object” brought together two contemporary painters who have added their own pages to this ongoing story. The artists, however, also reach well beyond the novelty of their paint application to present a hybridized blend of an intensely physical abstraction that is paired with an equally intense, but ephemeral, opticality.

Sasha Pierce makes her paintings by meticulously squeezing carefully considered hues of paint out of tiny holes in sandwich bags. She manipulates her material into fine lines of thick, corrugated paint that form fantastically dense pattern-based abstractions. Intersect is a particularly strong example of her process. In it, the radiating patterns of her delicate line work are contained within a semi-centralized octagonal shape that is thrust against an interlocking grid of zigzagged forms. Jeremy Hof’s paintings are made by applying hundreds of layers of coloured laytex and acrylic onto panels. The hypnotic, interlocking circles of his compositions are made by burrowing down through these layers of paint with a router or sanding by hand, creating bands of psychedelic colours. In both of these instances the image is revealed through excavation. Router works, such as layer painting yellow red circles, are reminiscent of geological core samplings. The sanding works, such as hand sanded mutli-colour #4, are a more archeological revelation.

Such work can run the risk of being written off as yet another contemporary novelty, but what takes these works beyond the ingenuity of their idiosyncratic paint application is the complexity of the opticality that results. The paintings completely disrupt visual perception. Like Bridget Riley’s paintings, Hof’s and Pierce’s are hard to look at in quiet contemplation. Lines start to waver, bend and warp as the laborious physicality of the obsessive materialism gives way. What’s left is the fleeting shimmer of our flawed vision.