In a front room of her home made smaller by the expanse of two tall easels propping up canvases that shine with wild works-in-progress, artist April Hammock tilts her head to the side and trains her eyes on a detail undetected by all but the creator herself, peering just over the top of her dark face mask at a splashy spasm of color she’s thinking of calling “The Beast in the Boat.”
There’s a rush of movement to her mysterious figure and the ribbon-like colors of the piece, but a clever arc cradles all of these entangled forms and feels surprisingly like a carrier of hope.
“I’m taking chaos and trying to pour it out onto the canvas, to somehow transform it without stifling its nature,” Hammock muses. “I want a little chaos. But I want it contained so you can make sense of what’s going on.”
The fanciful strokes of her work are contrasted by the uniformity of her weaponry. Nearby, hundreds of brushes sprout in bristled bouquets from old cans of Italian espresso. Another 20 odd instruments are lined up on the desk next to row after row of color-grouped paint bottles.
Keeping organized fuels her creative bursts, she says. The LSU MFA graduate and her husband had planned a move in 2020 which would have given her a larger studio, but then the pandemic hit. Still, the Baton Rouge Gallery artist member works a lot and works quickly, bouncing from piece to piece depending on her mood.
“Speed is important to me,” she says. “Spontaneity brings a certain energy to the pieces, I think.” Drawing from current events, too. Hammock believes the chaotic nature of 2020 has inspired a lot in her latest spate of art.
But Hammock didn’t always crank out emotionally charged abstract works. Two decades ago, she was much more ensconced in realism and portraiture. “Then I decided I love to be expressive with paint, and this is the way I want to paint,” Hammock says. “It gives me a sense of freedom I didn’t get from observational painting. Now I feel like I have to paint, and I feel better when I do.”
Her most recent works were featured in Van Der Plas Gallery in New York City and Silvermine Galleries in New Canaan, Connecticut, after passing her own unusual test. Only after turning a painting on its side, or even upside down, does Hammock know it is complete. She explains that this dramatic perspective shift rewires her eyes to see only the colors, forms and spaces untethered from the context of emotional intent.
“That way I can see if it all truly works together,” Hammock says. “Sometimes it takes looking at what you’re making differently in order to really understand it.”