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“Recurring” series by Pete Hocking at Four Eleven Gallery, Provincetown

“From one tide to the next, and from one year to the next, what do I find here?” ~ prose poem by Mary Oliver, “At Herring Cove”

There’s a writerly narrative in Pete Hocking’s visually evocative paintings, and in the current (and evolving) groupings of varied sizes his work explores emotionally potent terrain, focusing our view towards the edges and reexamined places of many, many miles of walking and witnessing in the stunning Provincetown landscapes. Having followed Pete’s painting work and photo documentation practice throughout the last decade, it is exciting to see these new works and new directions from his deepening roots in Provincetown. From the wilder edges of the Herring Cove series with its powerful waves and eroding remains of the parking lot and road, to the recent pieces which offer playful side-glances of the town’s sites of intimate human-activity in the isolation at off-hours, there’s a poetic repetition of imagery and place that brings his work into conversation with great Provincetown writers and painters of generations.

This was my very first trip to Provincetown, and it began and ended with unplanned sightings of Pete Hocking heading down Commercial Street, timely appearances bookending an inspiring visit. His solo show, “Broken by Wind and Tide,” opened at Four Eleven Gallery at the end of our week’s visit, and the days in Provincetown provided a wonderful opportunity to see his paintings and process as the final days before the reception unfolded. And, of course, there was walking.

Years ago, Pete Hocking’s work was filled with people, more specifically, embodied visions of his own body in a time-bending relational exploration of past, present, and future selves. These figures occupied settings like actors within the scenic design of a play, and their captured moments of relationship and interaction were like pages from a graphic novel. In the Provincetown work, Hocking finds a great opening of spaces, gone are the bodies as figures within the frame, and instead the viewer is guided along the pathways and journeys walked over and over again, edges and glimpses of twists and turns, captured corners of dwellings (homes not his own), intersections and vulnerable grids of power lines, shadows, crosswalks met with the stillness and calm emotional center found in the miles of wandering.

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“At Love’s Frayed Edge, no. 28” by Pete Hocking at Four Eleven Gallery, Provincetown

The “At Love’s Frayed Edge” series brings us the edges of an eroding evidence of human “civilization” met by the forces of nature and impermanence. The powerful waves consume the attempts to maintain the constructed surfaces, and shatter their lines and boundaries into tumbled shapes and remixed patterns. Hocking brings the viewer into the swell and impact of the storm winds, and the inner turmoil of washed away landmarks of normalcy and structure. These are the images of a Hermit at the edges of the known terrain, meeting the wildness in himself and the landscape.

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“Path to Impermanence no. 1 + 2” by Pete Hocking at Four Eleven Gallery, Provincetown

Spring finds the painter considering the fragile beauties of the blooming trees, pink with falling petals just as they’ve done alongside these roads and pathways for generations. Though the storms of the Herring Cove series are quieted, Hocking marks the no less transitional and ephemeral landscape with thick painted surfaces of color that hold movement and light, warmly evoking the afternoons of this particular moment, moody but vividly alive and present.

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One of the 6″ x 6″ “Recurring” series by Pete Hocking at Four Eleven Gallery, Provincetown

One of the great strengths of this exhibition is the inclusion of the smallest pieces, most of which are hung together in a tight group. These small canvases show Hocking at his freest hand, experience and technical skill worked with no preciousness, the scale of the actual landscapes now shared within a small frame, his expressive brushstrokes speak in their simplicity of maturing, direct knowledge of these places.  This particular piece (shared above) is one of 6″ x 6″ “Recurring” series, a painting of a specific location during a walk we took together mid-week. As we approached the start of the dune shack terrain, on a walk filled with conversations about mid-life, queerness, art practice and academic careers, he paused to photograph the specific liminal spaces of the returning woods, the fragility of the green-covered dunes, and the dip leading into the cranberry bog that held enough water and organic material to anchor the new growth of trees. For many decades the dunes were more barren, hard places altered by the impact of the original colonialists, now slowly regaining the diversity of the plants and animals previously lost, supported with the protections of environmental initiatives and long-term efforts. In a time of such uncertainty, the pressing woes of the political era and climate change, the renewed call to art and activism, alongside the more intimate challenges of aging bodies, of community-building and questions of home, the queer ecology themes of Hocking’s Provincetown landscapes arise through his repeated visits, keen eyes and insightful discoveries along the repeated miles of walking, listening, and being present amidst all the great and small changes. And what a wonderful guide he is, whether found at the corner of Commercial Street, in the gallery or studio, along the great stretches of beach and dunes of this historic and contemporary setting.

A second opening reception on Friday, July 7, includes an additional series of small works, “Buildings and Byways,” with a distinctly psychogeographic view of Provincetown in the empty hours of early morning and evening, the streets passageways without the cluttered movement of pedestrians and bicycles. If you are in Provincetown before July 20, make sure to see Pete Hocking’s paintings at Four Eleven Gallery, 411 Commercial Street, Provincetown.

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