By Daniel Hewson
As I sit with Swain Hoogervorst on a crisp Friday, he shares his first real painting experience with me. It was a Grade 11 project and he was painting a beach. Upon making a ‘mistake’, Hoogervorst began ‘over painting’ this specific area. The initial ‘cover-up’ of paint suddenly released a whole new spectrum of possibilities; such is the beauty of oil paint. Ever since then, Hoogervorst has been trying to emulate this happy accident.
Whilst Hoogervorst has operated in numerous approaches to art making, it is paint that continues to challenge and inspire his practice. Considering he is at the start of his career, Hoogervorst is not afraid to step into a new paradigm and question his approach to painting in terms of style and content. This is evident in the two major exhibitions completed this year by the artist. Hoogervorst had his first solo show at the AVA in April entitled, Inside Out. This exhibition saw the painter investigating several outdoor swimming pools, using these pools as a greater metaphor for the artist’s studio. For Hoogervorst the studio is a place of retreat, a place for contemplation and reflection.
Water has often been conveyed as metaphor for emotion. Upon walking into the AVA I am stunned by the colossal painting, Inside Out, after Elrich. This huge interior view of a swimming pool completely embraces me. I feel like I am sitting on the swimming pool floor, and yes, I feel contained in a contemplative retreat, however in the back of my mind an imposing hint of fear arises. Water has always been a bold conveyer of emotion. To be caught in an ocean storm with waves crashing onto a sailing vessel from all directions must surely be one of the most tumultuous emotional experiences and yet look at the tranquillity evoked by water in a scene such as Georges Seurat’s La Grande Jatte. I am contained and trapped at the same time, overawed by this situation. Hoogervorst has the ability to create tension and yet simultaneously his work is evocative through his painterly application and stringent investigation of subject matter.
Upon closer inspection of Hoogervorst’s swimming pools, I keep reflecting on David Hockney’s splash paintings completed in the late 1960’s when he lived in California. Although Hoogervorst’s execution differs considerably to Hockney’s, I find both artists have created a similar atmosphere through the explorations in controlled water. Hockney’s description of a water splash could quite easily connect to Hoogervorst: “When you photograph a splash, you’re freezing a moment and it becomes something else. I realise that a splash could never be seen this way in real life, it happens too quickly.”
Freezing moments also happens to be a favourite pastime of Hoogervorst. He describes how photography is an obsession. He is constantly snapping everyday experiences that can be used in future projects, exactly the same as a physical sketchbook. In today’s world where digital photography is so dominant, nearly all artists require cameras to develop their concepts. Digital photography is a valuable tool, however, Hoogervorst is also wary of it, describing how it can become a safety net and if not careful can detract from the interpretative power of painting.
After an immensely exciting and abundant 2014, Hoogervorst will be travelling to the Arteles Creative Centre in Finland to participate in a residency. He is excited to absorb the natural surroundings and especially to share and collaborate with artists from a broad spectrum of nations. I eagerly anticipate the new directions Hoogervorst’s practice will take.
Daniel Hewson is a curator, educator, writer and artist based in Cape Town.