When I strolled into the Zack Gallery at the Jewish Community Centre I was not expecting to be dazzled and awed! I came face-to-face with stunning paintings and assembled pieces that attracted and puzzled me. The painting on the cover of this Senior Line is called Camp Moschendorf. Ira Hoffecker was born and raised in Germany. She has lived in Victoria, BC since 2004. She is not Jewish and like so many Germans born after World War II, the history of the Nazis and the Holocaust are part of her identity: the identity she explores in this exhibition and in the entirety of her art.
Especially for this exhibition I have created a body of work that talks about Berlin’s former Jewish quarters, the Scheunenviertel and Spandauer Vorstadt. By the time the Red army liberated Berlin in 1945, of Berlin’s one-time population of 160,000 Jews before WWII, 55,000 were murdered, 7,000 committed suicide and over 90,000 emigrated. Nazis had erased Jewish life in Berlin and all over Europe.
My work examines the relationships between people and cities by responding to constant change, reconstruction and restoration in the urban landscape. Decay, erasure, covering, revealing and rebuilding take place at the same time and are part of my painting practice. I see my process of covering as a metaphor of forgetting and suppressing the past. The process of revealing and sanding the surface down alludes to a process of remembering and coming to terms with historic events. These layers are equivalent to the archaeological strata in the evolution of a city. Places are overlaid with multiple histories, layers of paint cover and obscure but each coat is also informed by the previous layer. I adopt geometric shapes inherent in architecture, and maps from different times in history provide the basis of my compositional language. Studying history books, maps and photograph, as well as digesting the city by walking the streets, all inform my understanding of the identity of a place.
She emphasizes that Germans must never forget, that they must learn from their past and come to terms with the guilt. “As horrible as this guilt and the memory of the Shoah is, Germans must accept it as part of their heritage, as part of their identity instead of trying to forget and trying to suppress the past.”
For more details of Ira Hoffecker’s career and works, please read Olga Livshin’s essay “Exploration of identity”.
All her paintings can be seen on her website: http://irahoffecker.com/ and she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.