Saturday, 17 May 2014
Until Saturday 24 May
Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery
2A Conway Street, off Fitzroy Square, W1
Monday to Saturday 10am–6pm
Closed Sundays and Bank Holidays
Barbara Hoogeweegen's paintings, based on photographs she has taken of her subjects, seem to deal with the unsaid, perhaps the unsayable.
On the surface, they are well executed, small-sized (average dimensions 32 x 26 cm) works of mothers and their mostly teenage children in the idealized urban setting of Notting Hill. Using oil on board and a subdued palette, the artist shows us the immaculate interiors, the well-groomed Tabithas and Justinians, the light pouring in at well-scrubbed windows, the family dog – and yet.
Underlying all this, written in to the calmly worked brush strokes, there is loss, whether by death (mother or child) or parting (grown up child leaving home, parents getting divorced).
Hoogeweegen achieves this by overpainting sections of her child figures so that they appear to fade into the background. It suggests too that the mother figure might already be starting to calibrate the days before her child will be wholly gone.
The paintings depict happiness certainly –- mother and daughter holding hands, heads together on a sofa, everything that parental love, Notting Hill and good schools can bestow. But what are we to make of the school satchel on its own, the abandoned toys, the set of Russian Dolls where the final, smallest one of the four has faded until only the pale outline remains? And what of the mother whose arms hold an almost bleached-out baby who seems to be reaching out through a window to the blue sky beyond?
The hang is awkward, a two-tiered arrangement that makes the top tier difficult to see. Perhaps the unsayable here is also the untouchable, the pain of child loss too great to confront directly.