Sam Hacking’s paintings are on appearance a rich evocation of Englishness and familiarity. The scenes depicted feel commonplace, almost ‘pretty’,but there’s an air of quiet menace running through the work. There is much we can’t see, with odd perspectives and inaccessibility into the painting, with paths leading round the corner, fences running into nothing and skies that are completely unreal. It’s the known rendered unknown. There’s a sense of being out of time as each landscape is so ‘clean’, with no real sign of human presence, cars or houses.
Initially explored through sculpture and performance on her BA at The Slade School of Art, her first paintings were actually born out of a performance where she gave tiny landscapes out to members of the public who were travelling abroad (in a performance called ‘The Traveller’), as if the paintings were selfportraits and thus acted as talisman in getting herself abroad. Shows that followed this continued to play around with performance and sculptural ideals, creating works on paper, postage stamps, playing cards, all involving some kind of live performance (a piece called ‘Tiger by the Tail’ involves 52 tiny landscapes on the backs of playing cards, repeatedly shuffled and laid out on a table by a croupier).
“In my early works I often used performance, text and different mediums to paint the landscapes on because I still felt very uncomfortable just dealing with the paintings directly. I had such an intense connection to landscapes, it felt too exposing just showing the paintings on their own. Even though the subject matter didn’t necessarily convey my agoraphobia in any obvious way to the viewer, it nevertheless felt very obvious to me and I didn't feel comfortable enough to put myself out there in that way. When you have just paintings on a wall with no tricks of performative work to distract you, then you have to confront what’s within the work directly, which for years I wasn’t mentally strong enough to do.”