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

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D area. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control to Electoral Area D; director calls for respectful discussion

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

An Armstrong family that lost their home to a fire on Wednesday still hasn’t found their cat as of Friday, June 18, 2021. (Facebook photo)
Family cat still missing, days after fire destroys Armstrong home

There were no injuries from Wednesday’s blaze, but two days later there’s still no sign of the white feline

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read