GO ‘The idea’ was to seek out many of Canada’s lead­ing artists and pho­to­graph their stu­dios

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - GRA­HAM ROCK­ING­HAM Hart­man

JOSEPH HART­MAN GREW UP in his father’s art stu­dio. He re­mem­bers it well, the smell of oil paint and lin­seed, the feel of the brushes, the tex­ture of the can­vasses and the heft of the tools. He smiles when he thinks of the many cup­boards, each with its own hid­den se­crets.

Hart­man’s dad is one of Canada’s most renowned painters, John Hart­man, and the stu­dio was — still is — in the Ge­or­gian Bay com­mu­nity of La­fontaine.

The father en­cour­aged Hart­man, his brother and his two sis­ters to hang out in the stu­dio while he worked. They could even nose around when he was away. It was a won­drous place, part of their home.

Even­tu­ally, Hart­man would es­tab­lish his own stu­dio, a pho­to­graphic one, on Sher­man Av­enue in down­town Hamil­ton. But the mem­o­ries of La­fontaine lin­gered.

Noth­ing tells more about artists than the stu­dio in which they work, per­haps even more than their fin­ished work. It is an in­ti­mate place, an open door to the act of cre­ativ­ity.

Spat­ters on the floor, brush strokes on the wall, charms and me­men­tos lit­ter the desks. Some stu­dios are well-or­dered, oth­ers a mess. Foibles seem to find homes in ev­ery niche.

Hart­man was re­minded of how spe­cial a stu­dio can be a few years ago when he was do­ing a com­mer­cial shoot at artist Chris Tem­ple’s place in Toronto.

“He had this amaz­ing habit of dab­bing his brush on the wall be­fore he would put it on the paint­ing so his wall had this beau­ti­ful ab­stract pat­tern of ab­stract brush strokes on it,” Hart­man re­calls.

“I asked him if he would mind if I took some shots of the wall. That’s sort of where the idea got go­ing.”

“The idea” was to seek out many of Canada’s lead­ing artists and pho­to­graph their stu­dios, some­times with the artist in­cluded, usu­ally not. He started in 2013 and con­tin­ued for much of the next four years, trav­el­ling to both coasts, across the Prairies and to the Arc­tic.

In all, he shot the stu­dios of more than 120 artists. Thirty of th­ese large­for­mat pho­tos are on dis­play at the Art Gallery of Hamil­ton un­der the ti­tle “Joseph Hart­man: The Artist’s Stu­dio,” which runs un­til Dec. 31.

The com­plete col­lec­tion is con­tained in a cof­fee-ta­ble-style book pub­lished by Black Dog Pub­lish­ing ($34.95), also avail­able at the gallery.

Among the stu­dios fea­tured are those of Christo­pher Pratt, Mary Pratt, John Scott, Robert David­son, Kent Monkman, At­tila Richard Lukacs, Gathie Falk, Wanda Koop, Shel­ley Adler, Pierre Do­rion and the late Tim Pit­si­u­lak (whose work is fea­tured in an ad­join­ing ex­hibit at the gallery).

It would be easy to think of this ex­hi­bi­tion as a doc­u­men­tary or jour­nal­is­tic project, but Hart­man’s goals were much higher.

‘The idea’ was to seek out many of Canada’s lead­ing artists and pho­to­graph their stu­dios, some­times with the artist in­cluded, usu­ally not.

“I try to tell the story of the artist who works there, try to paint a por­trait of them through their cre­ative space,” says Hart­man, 39, who stud­ied ki­ne­si­ol­ogy at McMaster be­fore turn­ing his back on a ca­reer in medicine and be­com­ing a full­time pho­tog­ra­pher.

Some­times the artist is part of the pic­ture. But more of­ten not.

“I was in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing the idea of mak­ing a por­trait of some­one with­out their pres­ence in the pho­to­graph,” says Hart­man, who lives on the Moun­tain with his part­ner Sarah and their six-year-old daugh­ter Clara.

“Can you take the ob­jects that sur­round them in this very in­ti­mate space and use them to paint that por­trait?

“Of all the spa­ces that we oc­cupy, the stu­dio is a per­fect space to do that, be­cause it’s such a per­sonal space, very in­ti­mate, and the artist con­trols ev­ery­thing that is in that space. Ev­ery­thing there serves a pur­pose for their paint­ing and their art-mak­ing …

“Or it is some­thing that they have on the wall that they love, maybe some­one else’s art work, or a funny trin­ket. It all works its way into their art­work some­how.”

In some cases, the artist’s style be­came part of Hart­man’s com­po­si­tion.

This is most strik­ing in the case of Christo­pher Pratt. Hart­man’s photo ap­pears al­most two-di­men­sional, cap­tur­ing the sig­na­ture of the renowned New­found­land painter.

“A lot of the best pho­to­graphs, I feel, are me re­spond­ing to the artist’s art­work,” Hart­man ex­plains.

“This is a good ex­am­ple where I’ve com­posed the photo to be a bit like one of his paint­ings. I strug­gled a bit in his stu­dio find­ing a com­po­si­tion that worked.”

Hart­man, of course, had to re­turn to La­fontaine to take a photo of his father’s stu­dio. “I al­ways had a love of my dad’s stu­dio,” he says.

“I have a lot of fond mem­o­ries, pok­ing around and look­ing at things, stick­ing my fin­gers in the paint.

“That’s re­ally when it all be­gan.”


Hamil­ton pho­tog­ra­pher Joseph Hart­man with his ex­hi­bi­tion of pho­to­graphs now on dis­play at the Art Gallery of Hamil­ton. The show fea­tures shots of stu­dio spa­ces of artists across Canada.

Joseph Hart­man’s view of Wanda Koop’s stu­dio in Win­nipeg.

The stu­dio of Vanessa Mal­tese in Toronto — shot by Joseph Hart­man.

Left: In­ti­mate and unique — Hart­man’s view of the stu­dio of Charles Mean­well in Hamil­ton.

The stu­dio of Christo­pher Pratt in Sal­monier, New­found­land and Labrador.

The stu­dio of Mary Pratt in St. John’s, NL.

The stu­dio that started it all — John Hart­man’s in La­fontaine.


Above: A dig­i­tal chro­mogenic print of the stu­dio of artist John Scott, pho­tographed in 2014. Call it “busy.”

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