Rob Hooper with paintings in front of old farmhouse

“When you distinguish between good and evil, you've lost the art. Art goes beyond morality. The reach of your compassion is the reach of your art.”
Joseph Campbell

Rob and Jerome Couelle

Rob visiting his friend and favourite living artist, Jerome Couelle, in North Hero VT, July 2009
Jerome's website

about rob

Even the air has colour.

Imagine the beginning. Imagine standing with the white canvas before you, the painting unpainted yet still somehow present but unformed inside you. Between the white canvas and the artist’s palette is a world of daring. Between the first touch of the brush to the paint and the crossing to the canvas to lay the first stroke is an act of faith. It’s an act of faith in mystery, and mystery is at the heart of all art.

When I write novels I begin only with a single sentence. I know no more about plot or character than that. I have a sentence and I repeat it aloud, sometimes on and off for days, once for many months. Sometimes I type the sentence on a white Word page and the cursor blinks back at me as though the white space has its own urgent pulsing, as though the book is waiting somewhere in there. As indeed, I have come to believe, it is.

The first time I came to Rob Hooper’s paintings I was struck by several things. First they were clearly works of urgency and energy. The vibrancy of the canvases is physical and powerful. They seize the viewer. They pull you into the essence of a moment, and explode it with depth and colour in a way that reminded me of the nature poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. In Hopkins too there is a sense of the impatience with form, the urgency of the creation to break out, go further, for the artist’s need to express—literally press out—onto a canvas or a page an inner fire. The craft, the art, is in bringing the viewer into this moment, this now, and in creating the sense of communion between artist and viewer.

For me, all of the paintings collected here have this urgency and power. But of course this is not the only feature of the work, or the thing that moves me to write these words. For the truth is the paintings have that simplest and perhaps most undervalued of qualities these days, they are beautiful. Look at ‘Cranberry Swing’, look at ‘Abundance.’ Look at them just for the pleasure of looking. The vividness of the colours, the startling combinations, the discoveries of tints and tones within a single square inch of any one of the pictures, creates a sense of the layered beauty of the world. ‘Pied beauty’ is Hopkins’ phrase for it. This layering, which is part of the artist method, carries within it an implicit statement of this artist’s vision of the world. For here the physical is at all times overlaid, under-laid, inter-laid, with the spiritual. There is a feeling of the inextricable. Just as you cannot separate the colours in a Rob Hooper painting, neither can you distinguish the merely physical from the spiritual. The work leads you to this feeling of deepening.

I have come to know Rob’s work while living eight thousand miles away from it in the west of Ireland. One of his pictures hangs here in the upstairs office in the two hundred year old cottage where I write beneath the skylight. I turn from the sky window and look at it. It pulsates with life and does what all art should do: it takes me somewhere, and makes me feel even the air has colour.

— Niall Williams
niallwilliams.com