Collection of the artist.
John Hall, "Orbit," 2009
John Hall, "Orbit," 2009, acrylic on canvas, 12” x 12”
Depicting ordinary objects – trash, doughnuts, constructed tableaus of the personal and mundane – in gleaming, photorealistic splendour is more than a style for Okanagan-based painter John Hall. It has been a career-long meditation on meaning, materiality and identity – as well as a chance to play.
Like Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things, in which socks and pliers become the things of poetry, Hall’s painted subjects are never subjects, but moments of beauty, stand-ins or jumping-off points for reflection. “Turning the ordinary into the extraordinary is a kind of alchemy,” Hall says. “A rendering has the potential to take the most ordinary of pictorial moments and transform them.”
John Hall, "3.02.99," 1999
John Hall, "Miracles and Monsters," 2005
John Hall, "Muñeca," 1992
A 45-year retrospective, the exhibition presents four phases in Hall’s career: the early trash musings, ’80s-era Still-Life Portraits (depicting people through their curated belongings), the ’90s San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, period, where Hall lived half-time for 11 years, and the photo/digital-influenced work (including today’s fetishy sweets) accompanying the painter’s move to the Okanagan from Calgary in 1999. “It’s a wild show,” Hall says. “Seventy pieces. The viewer can see the connections between works, see what gave birth to what, and follow the trail from the very beginning.”
Hall, a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts since 1975, has an impressive teaching and exhibition record. His work tends toward virtuosic displays and mind-boggling verisimilitude; he obviously enjoys technical and material challenges. Sleekness is key. (“I’ve never been a fan of ornamental brushwork.”) Glossy, tarted-up colour reflects Hall’s pop culture roots, his self-described singular influence as a child growing up in an aesthetically flat mid-century Edmonton. He blended modernism, his art school mantra, with his pop sensibilities, bending 1970’s New Realism to the task. And voilà! His signature aesthetic was born.
John Hall, "Flash: Juke," 2015
John Hall, "Flash: Juke," 2015, acrylic on canvas, 36” x 36”
Hall’s current work teases. He plays with preconceptions, sending sugar-coated mixed messages. Juice-bursting berries or sexy, sticky glaze-dripping doughnuts aim beyond our sensory receptors. These are clearly vanitas paintings that reference the 17th-century Dutch tradition of art as cautionary tale. We meditate on the transience of a doughnut in perfect splendour (rotten tomorrow, or at least stale) and consider our fleeting lives. He throws in classic vanitas prompts: mirrored surfaces for self-reflection, and yes, a skull, memento mori with a bit of a wink. With apologies to Freud, sometimes a doughnut is just a doughnut. But not for John Hall.
Collection of the Canada Council Art Bank
John Hall, "Pepsi," 1970
John Hall, "Pepsi," 1970, acrylic on canvas, 96” x 72”
John Hall is represented by the LOCH GALLERY