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Ryan Hoffmann: How to Sit in the Presence of Uncertainty

We like to imagine our lives as ordered; labelled bottles, jars and containers stacked neatly on a shelf, classified to our liking. Rows, on rows on rows representing our accumulated life experience. This is how we tend to present our lives; as linear and clear cut; but the reality is far from this; and we do know deep down that not everything can be attributed to a neat package.

Control is central to this museological mode of thinking; and is in part attributed to our contemporary, distracted lifestyles. But the problem with this is that we may fall into familiar patterns of labelling the world around us according to a set of binary signifiers; a thing is either “this” or “that” - not two things at once. This black and white thinking; is of course polarising, and can be unhelpful as there is little room for things to reveal themselves naturally through nuance, layers and growth. Like moisturiser that is applied hastily to dry winter skin, the potential nourishment of this action can be lost in part, due to an unwillingness to slow down to wait in full, for the results to reveal themselves.

In contrast to this, Ryan Hoffmann’s new body of work for this exhibition titled ‘A White Flower Can Also Be A Ghost’ is a result of the artist’s deliberate intention to slow down, listen to himself and his practice and to look for the grey, in-between of things. Take for example, the artist’s use of titles, we read: ‘To look is to find’, ‘An echo of a moment’ and ‘Moon Shimmer’ each providing an auto-biographical instance of the artist’s capacity for waiting, listening and sitting with thoughts. This requires open mindedness and patience. It can be uncomfortable but the outcomes include the potential for further depth, nuance and understanding, of how we perceive both ourselves and others.

Hoffmann has been vulnerable with himself, and the outcomes speak for themselves in the work for this exhibition. Across the shapes of the moulded paintings, colour palette of the oil paint and artistic approaches that value slow inquisition into the hand made, the pieces are sublime, deliberate and speak to both the immediacy of time, and timelessness itself.

- Tess Maunder


She tells me with a soft voice

“Lay down.

Close your eyes.

Take three deep breaths.”

I do as I am instructed.

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“Imagine a happy place, where are you? Imagine it with as much detail as possible, see if…”

I imagine myself ripped into two, a shadow and a small creature. We travel together, everything is black and white. We take a slower approach to things than I usually do in my waking life (if you call it that), looking for what was missed previously.

There are some places and spaces we find that are worth returning to, and we do.

A beach shrouded by cliff; a white deer crosses the path as we arrive. Later the sun drops below the horizon cutting itself into two, the energy turns the black and white landscape to grey; the in-between. Everything is fluid.

Later that evening, the moon’s glow ripples on the water, people are dancing in the light, the living energy is palpable. We have a lantern; it stops the grey turning back into black and white. The next morning, we find a small white flower growing in the sand, its beauty haunts us forever.

Together we wade through the grey sludge. A constant inquisition.

Illuminating life, desire, happiness, pain… Time spent with loved ones, alone… Remembering, mark making, storytelling, looking.

Happy doing so!