Louise HEARMAN, Untitled (739) Enlarge 1 /1


Melbourne, Victoria, Australia born 1963

Untitled (739) 1999 Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on composition board

Primary Insc: not signed, not dated, verso, u/c, black felt tip pen, "739/ Hearman 99."
Dimensions: 61.0 h x 61.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased with the assistance of funds from the Moët & Chandon Australian Art Foundation
Accession No: NGA 99.165

Since she first began exhibiting in the 1980s, Louise Hearman has been creating images which are unsettling in their ambiguity and resistance to explanation. In Untitled (739), a child sits alone in a forest clearing, a shaft of brilliant light catching the child’s hair and grass beyond and intensifying the deep shadows of the surrounding trees. Hearman’s dramatic use of light creates a mood of disquiet and unease by raising questions about the nature of this innocuous scene. Is it sunlight, or artificial night-time illumination? Is it hair standing up on the child’s head, or are they faun-like horns? This instability of imagery, which shifts and changes with the light, challenges our own perceptions of reality and asks us to look more carefully at the world around us, and beyond the realm of appearances.

Hearman’s interest in twilight and shadows, in the bizarre and fantastic, have precursors in the 18th-century Romantic movement and 19th-century fin de siècle Symbolism, Surrealism and film noir. Hearman’s use of light emulates photography in that it fixes forever a transient moment. Paradoxically, this light does not illuminate her subjects, but renders them even more dark and mysterious.

Elena Taylor

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002