John Hart is concerned with the complex, often ambivalent intersection between classical painting, photography and digital imaging. Drawing inspiration from realist artists including Gerhard Richter and Chuck Close, Hart employs photo-mechanical material as the impetus for his paintings. A tradition established by these predecessors was to set one representational process against another, creating a tension in the work between the indexicality of photography and the conceptual or imaginative possibilities of painting. 1.
Hart contributes a further intriguing dimension to this debate, translating the material nature and realism of digitally, manipulated photography into paintings which, paradoxically, are more persuasive in their illusion of the real.
With their theatrical lighting, magnified scale and eerie stillness, Hart’s images betray an overwhelming, almost unnerving sense of drama and strangeness: the longer one focuses upon this fragment of reality … the more intense or mysterious the experience becomes. Everyday objects (and more recently figures) that are wrapped in paper or fabric, mask any sense of the ‘familiar’. Such works notably transcend the obvious or particular – entering, rather, a metaphysical realm.
John Hart graduated from the New York Studio drawing school in 1997 after completing a Visual Art Honours degree at the Adelaide Central School of Art. He first exhibited with Libby Edwards Galleries in 2009, and his work was received with applause. His subsequent appearance in Art Sydney in 2009 and a survey exhibition at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery sealed his collectable profile. Hart comes with an artistic family pedigree – his father was the late Australian painter Pro Hart.
Encapsulating the realism of our time, Hart distills and meticulously renders his objects to such a degree that they cannot but be perceived as images in their own right, in their complete neutrality. Devoid of narrative overtones or overtly symbolic content, his paintings thus remain deliberately elusive, ambiguous – beguiling both the eye and mind with their enigmatic presence. As acclaimed philosopher of German Romanticism, Friedrich von Hardenberg (better known by his pseudonym ‘Novalis’) mused, ‘…By giving what is commonplace an exalted meaning, what is ordinary a mysterious aspect, what is familiar the impressiveness of the unfamiliar, and the finite the appearance of infinity.’2.
1., 2. extracts from essay by Veronica Angelatos, Arts Writer, Melbourne