“To garden you must think ahead, be gentle, be ruthless, consider depth and the path of the sun. To be a gardener is to know what it means to fail, to put something in the wrong spot and watch it battle valiantly, then meekly, and then curl. Sometimes it is to be so flamboyantly optimistic – with only hope or irrational boldness to go on – only to lose it all in a late flurry of snow.
To be a painter is to know these things too. And to paint gardens requires a quiet resolution. To return to the same subject over and over, as one returns to the studio again and again. Rebecca Hasselman’s paintings remind me of the places you find yourself talking on the phone when the sun goes down or watching a child scrabble about in the back door dust. They are from her garden in Dunedin, yet they evoke so many others.
I look at these works and see faint remnants of Hasselman’s childhood in Glenorchy, the colours and the dryness – and the sparseness that comes with that – and the scrubbiness that is ever present.
Her painting is careful yet self-assured. Consistently – almost defiantly – modest in scale, they are landscape as still life, mild explosions, and fine gestures. At times she is brusque in application, but always generous, joyful, in colour. Just when you think it might get frilly, she pares it back with an economy of materials, a delight in brevity.
It is this astute observation and indexing of the interior and exterior, of the close and the obscure, that demonstrates Hasselman’s capacity to both paint her specific experience while quietly nudging the viewer to see certainty and flux anew and all around. They are like a note on an envelope, a photograph from a hot summer’s day, a single brave flower. And that is enough.”
Rebecca Hasselman (b.1989) graduated from Ilam School of Fine Arts at Canterbury University in 2014. She lives with her young family in Ōtepoti Dunedin.
Extract from the exhibition essay by Holly Best. The full essay accompanies the exhibition.