Erika Hibbert - Abstract Paintings 2015
When I think back to my earliest memories of being a conscious artist, I recall suspicion of abstraction as a viewer, and absolute avoidance of it as a practitioner. I maintained that painting merely provided me with a method of conveying imagery and that the emblematic aspects of my subjects were what engaged me, and kept me painting. The surfaces, textures, marks and character of the painting were all subjugated beneath the meaning associated with the represented world. I was aware of, and intrigued by the ‘modernist’ concerns of my peers and I saw the richness of their work, but I could not engage with it on a deep level myself.
I see the death of my father, and then my husband, as significant signals of the end of that way of working for me. I continued to work representationally but I lost the urge to please potential viewers through observation-based skills. I inched away from describing narratives towards something else.
When I moved away from Johannesburg and no longer cared to please my clientele or a market, I freed myself up to work in more diverse media. The introduction of tea – (leaves and bags) – into my work, and then of other found objects (tins; blood; seeds…) allowed me to explore the latent potential of these things/textures/marks/forms without molding them into descriptive roles. In Atlanta I started cutting paper and drawing with that. This led me further from representation. The medium and the message merged, and the difference between meaning and making muddied. I recall the extreme anxiety I used to feel at the idea of producing an artwork without any reference to visual description. Slowly that fear receded. I am still charmed and delighted by narrative and iconic imagery but I am surprised to find myself working more and more ‘in the abstract’! The practice is demanding, fascinating and engrossing. The technical challenges of appropriate naturalistic representation are matched by the technical challenges of abstract composition – who knew!
The current body of work originated in longing. Kissing, as an activity that stimulates, engrosses and absorbs its participants, with drawn references to the physical kiss – mouths pressed together, eyes shut – have become subsumed by drawn references to the physical and mental madness of kissing.
Reigning in and letting go, I am marking more and more of the mental places kissing touches, but I am still held captive by the physical touching that kissing is about. This I see as linking to my longtime interest in the tensions between conscious and unconscious, between physicality and spirituality.