Peter Hoffer was born in Brantford, Ontario and has an MFA from Concordia University in Montréal, degrees from the University of Guelph, Ontario, and the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. He currently resides in Berlin.
The surfaces of Peter Hoffer’s landscape and abstract paintings are coated with a highly reflective resin varnish. This material was chosen as a means to create tension between a painted surface and refined encapsulation. This packaging of the “objet d’art” stills a moment in space and time and alludes to an item of value, not unlike religious reliquary.
This process of exaggerated surface varnishing was extracted from the historical 19th century practice of Parisian-style Salon exhibition. The “vernissage,” which today is known as the “opening,” was a common event among painters to re-varnish or shellac their works. This would make the piece refined and give it the appearance of being new and freshly completed. As it were, if the artists painting did not sell, the painting would travel to the next salon and the process would be repeated. For Hoffer, this suggested an unsold painting would be subject to multiple varnishings, and the outer surface of the painting would eventually obscure the image.
Initial works (1996-1999) were created using traditional methods of varnishing. A damar varnish was applied in multiple layers, often 10 to 15, over an extended period of time. Paint was sometimes applied in between certain successive layers creating a sense of depth and dimension.
It was later (2000) that many of the paintings integrated a synthetic resin surface. This at first was used as an outer shell to the piece. An epoxy and acrylic coating was applied over the damar varnish, stablizing it and allowing for a much thicker doming effect. The surface would now be raised from the painting by 1/8 of an inch to as thick as ½ inch.
Inconsistencies including discoloration and surface cracking are intentional and integral to the resin paintings. Many of these works have surfaces with various anomalies within the mixed resins. Surfaces are often layered off center thereby exaggerating the inconsistent topography. Random scratches, sporadic markings and various abrasions may appear throughout the shell of these particular works.
For the artist, this sets up a necessary balance between the naturalness of the painted and organic landscape and the artificial sense of the precious “objet d’art.” A contrast is emphasized between the controlled hand of the artist and the force of the material. In a sense, the painting adopts certain characteristics of the landscape, forever changing and evolving as material breaks down and alters composition.
On several pieces the works were subjected to the extremely cold temperatures of the Quebec winter. The harsh environment etches and stresses the thickly varnished painting prematurely cracking the brittle varnish, and sometimes bleaching and altering the structure of the surface.