Artist Ira Hoffecker. Photograph by Lia Crowe

In Studio with Artist Ira Hoffecker

Exhibition captures painter’s incredible journey

  • Apr. 27, 2021 2:45 p.m.

– Story by Sean McIntyre Photography by Lia Crowe

It was only after she returned home from a trip to the edge of the world that Ira Hoffecker felt she needed to take a giant leap.

Nearly 20 years ago, Ira, her husband and the couple’s two young children took a break from their movie-star -studded, jet-setting lifestyle in Berlin, Germany to rent a humble RV and explore Vancouver Island. The family could never have imagined how a trip designed for reconnection would alter the course of their lives.

“It’s like an epiphany what happened here in Canada,” Ira says.

In an interview at her home studio overlooking Langford Lake, Ira takes a moment to reflect on her life in Europe, noting how daring acts in the circus—which she loved to attend—can mimic life. Performers would amaze awestruck audience members, sitting on the edge of their seats, with one feat of daring and bravery after another.

“When you look at that person who does the salto mortale, there’s a special moment between when they let go [of the trapeze] and finally grab something again,” she says. “That’s how I see life, there is always a risk that you must take to try something new, but you should never be afraid to make that jump. You cannot discover a new coast without leaving the other one.”

Ira’s great leap from her career as an A-list cinema publicist, accustomed to hopping between the cities of Europe with the silver screen’s most recognizable faces, may have been momentarily disorienting, but she has certainly landed on her feet.

“Before moving to Canada, and before I began to study art formally 17 years ago, there was not a lot of time for painting at all,” she says. “The career shift happened somewhat gradually. At the beginning, I didn’t see it as a career shift at all. I just needed a long sabbatical from my work in the film industry and the medium I turned to was art.”

She began by transferring her perception of the world around her onto canvas. Ira soon enrolled at the Vancouver Island School of Art, where she earned a diploma of fine art and became an active member of the Federation of Canadian Artists. She has since pursued and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and then a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Her earliest abstract works grew from a lifelong interest in maps. She blended these pragmatic images with her observations of the urban landscape, creating works that challenge the viewer’s perception of reality with ad-hoc shapes, off-set angles and multi-faceted layering.

One such piece features the grim, monolithic layout of a concentration camp layered with textured concrete tones and violent splashes of red. A more recent piece created during a residency in Buenos Aires, Argentina—just prior to the global pandemic—is based on the map of that city’s Parque de la Memoria with infusions of vibrant colours and patterns that evoke a mix of art deco, art nouveau and Argentina’s homegrown Madí art movement.

In both cases there is the pain. The layers of each work contribute to the story that Ira tells of a specific place and time.

“‘I translate how the city feels and the historic knowledge of the city into an abstract painting,” she says. “It’s my personal interpretation of a place in time. My work used to be much more specific, there were specific maps and buildings. That has shifted over time. Then I began to develop paintings that involve both organic and geometric forms, where aspects of one form concentration informed the other.”

Pieces for her latest exhibition, Transitions, scheduled to run at Victoria’s Fortune Gallery (537 Fisgard Street) from May 1 through May 23, were completed at her Langford studio, where her environment features a distinctively West Coast blend of evergreen woods, water and the ever-changing urban geography in one of the country’s fastest-growing communities.

With few exceptions, the works that make up the Transitions show have all been created since the pandemic began more than a year ago. What began as a period rife with claustrophobia and a sense of paralysis quickly set roots for a new routine and a new perspective. Like so many others faced with a spring lockdown, Ira found herself in her garden, wrist deep in topsoil and seedlings.

“I couldn’t even go through Langford, and so I painted what I saw,” she says. “I always have a good connection to where I am, so I began translating my experience here, and this evolved into extensive flower studies that resulted in a whole series.”

As spring turned to summer, the flower series grew into larger works in which maps reasserted themselves. The distant top-down view of earlier pieces, however, was replaced with a greater sense closeness, intrigue and suspense. It’s a new perspective, perhaps a result of a pandemic-induced introspection and a renewed sense of place.

“What I do now is definitely an urban space, but it isn’t a specific city anymore. I’m moving away from that, it’s not a specific map, it’s not a specific architecture, but I’m playing with perception and exploring depth,” she says. “I always looked at things from above and now, with these latest paintings, all of a sudden I have a foreground, and I enjoy that. I like to explore with that and work with this different perception. It shifts the work in a way that allows me to play with depth when I add the foreground.”

The paintings and portraits on the walls of her home capture Ira’s transition. An enormous abstract map of colours on canvas hangs on her living room wall, just around the corner from a lineup of signed celebrity photographs from another life. It’s a reminder of where she’s come from, a tribute to that great leap from there to here, the need to sacrifice a comfortable present for an uncertain future. Charting a new course represents Ira’s personal salto mortale, and it’s an inspiring transition she has accomplished with grace and sophistication.

More information about Ira’s work is available at irahoffecker.com. Details about her Transitions exhibition can be accessed at: fortunegallery.ca.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

ArtEntertainment

Just Posted

Crews work to repair Horsefly Road east of Williams Lake . (Ministry of Transportation video)
MoTI activates district operations centre, response to flood damaged roads in Cariboo region

Engineers, experts being pulled from across the province to help

Jean Atkinson of Richbar Golf and Gardens says maple trees are the most popular shade tree sold by the nursery. (Black Press File Photo)
GARDENING WEEK: Maple trees provide shade, piece of Canadiana

Jean Atkinson from Quesnel’s Richbar Golf and Gardens says maples are their most popular shade tree

Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7pm tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
COLUMN: Front-line workers bearing mental strain of pandemic

Cassidy Dankochik’s column as seen in the May 12 edition of the Quesnel Cariboo Observer

Fraser River GM stopped by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Quesnel with a donation of 500 face masks Friday, May 7. (Fraser River Chevrolet Facebook photo)
Quesnel vehicle dealership helps mask those in need

1,000 face masks donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters and Salvation Army

Correlieu Secondary School made the announcement on their Facebook page. (file photo).
COVID-19 case detected at Correlieu Secondary School in Quesnel

This case marks the seventh time COVID-19 has been detected in the Quesnel School District

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Most Read