Artists and soul mates

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The Independent Culture
A Family Affair

Jeff Hoare, 75, studied painting, sculpture and printmaking at Chelsea School of Art, and art education and philosophy at the University of Swansea, then attended the Royal College of Art. He taught at St Martin's School of Art, in Greece, and in America. He was married to the artist Elizabeth Jane Lloyd and has four children, Trim, 43, Sarah Jane, 42, and Pom, 40. Tessanna, 38, is his youngest daughter. She studied art at Camberwell School of Art, City and Guilds, and Goldsmiths. She is a painter and sculptor who also designs shop windows and creates frescoes. She organised the first London Arts Auction for Aids in 1986. They both live in London


I didn't exactly idolise Dad when I was a little girl but there was certainly a special bond between us. Mum worked every day and on Mondays Dad was at home, so I'd say "I've got a headache" and he would always say "Stay at home - we'll go to the cake shop". Then we would write poems together or do my homework sitting in this peaceful room he had painted all white - it was the only calm room in the house because the rest were full of artist's colours.

Dad went to work in America for a few years when I was six. He came back and forth, but he was away for long periods of time and it was hard when he came back because he was so involved with America that I felt he wasn't really with us at all. It made him very tantalising.

My parents were a very glamorous and passionate couple when they were young and, as high fliers, they were swept up into an arty and creative circle. Even now Dad talks about it. He says, "My God, we were gorgeous. It was a wonderful time." There were always artists and musicians in and out the house and I would come home from school, walk into the sitting room and there would be a nude model with Dad painting her.

My parents split up for a time when I was in my teens and at Camberwell art college; in fact, I saw more of my Dad then because he made a great effort to be around. It was during this time that I identified a lot with him as an artist - his way of putting medium on and nothing being static in his pictures. I did very big, uninhibited water-colours and very passionate drawing and I used lots of colour. I think I represented the part in Dad that was wild and free and physical.

I am sure any mother, unless she is superhuman, would have somejealousy of this father-daughter bond. It showed because every time I was talking to Dad, Mum would want to know what I had said, what was going on. It was, "Oh your father, he gets all the attention. What about me? I'm the one who provides for you and I get stepped on."

But when I was in my twenties I began to identify with Mum. She had a very disciplined approach to her work and she was successful, she made the money. I lacked that discipline and felt I needed it to survive the next bit of my life, as it were. Looking back, I think I wanted my mother's approval at this point and I became a lot less focused on Dad.

There was a moment when Dad was in America and he was nearly killed in a car accident. I wasn't very aware of what happened at the time because I imagine Mum protected us. And on the other side Dad's not a drama queen like the rest of the family. He could be suffering the greatest amount of pain and he wouldn't say a goddamned thing. Now that he's such a big part of my life, I find myself thinking what a dreadful loss it would have been not to have him around at this time.

My mother died three years ago and that has been very hard; I feel I am still grieving and working through our mother-daughter relationship, but it has brought my father and me a lot closer. Through the years we had been living separately and getting on with our own lives, but after Mum's death he seemed to become much more of a parent, a concerned presence in my life. Doing this exhibition with Dad is very important for me and, looking at my pictures, I see how my relationship with Dad has affected them. I did a lot of the work in America last summer and I imagine that has something to do with the fact that I sort of lost my father to the US, because he was so seduced by America during my childhood. But it's not a problem now and it feels very tender and nice to be showing our work together.


I see Tessanna as a synthesis of her mother and me, so there were going to be conflicting ideas in her work; I have watched that through the years as her approach and ideas have changed. And I've seen the struggles she has. I have seen my role as being there to empathise through the difficult times and encourage her when things have been going well.

She was the bob end of the family and, as the smallest, always running along behind the bigger ones protesting that they were getting too far in front. I will always have this picture of a screaming little figure trying to keep up.

Certainly, I was aware of Tessanna's adoration of me particularly when I was in America. She used to write me the most beautiful letters. I began to appreciate her much more when I went away but she may not have realised this. In fact, I was in the process of getting paintings completed in Arizona and California and creating a sketchbook which I intended to give to Tessanna when I had the accident. I was hit in my car by one of those enormous transporters when it jack-knifed and careered into my car. I was trapped in the front. I heard this burning behind my head and I saw a great orange flame going up as a tower behind me. I tried to get out but both doors were jammed. Then people arrived and pulled me out of the window. I had paint all over me because the acrylics I had been painting with were in the back of the car and the tops had blown off. I rememberthinking that this was it and longing to just be with my family. I wrote about it all afterwards and did a drawing for Tessanna.

She is the professional artist among my children, and we have always talked a lot. Through discussing painting we touch on the emotional stuff and what matters to us in our relationship. I would describe our relationship as ebullient. I'm probably more worldly with her than with most people because I know she's a spirit. I find myself talking about work and cars - things I don't usually talk to people about.

We were lucky to live in St Peter's Square in Chiswick because it was full of creative people, like Vanessa Redgrave and her family; Laurie and Cathy Lee; and Anthony Gormley, who edited House and Garden and wore Teddy boy clothes. My wife always had the door open and everyone knew that if they put their hand through the letterbox, there would be a key. So we would find someone in the morning lying on the sofa not having known they were coming. When we separated for a while, my wife kept the house and treated it like a fortress. I made a great effort to see more of Tessanna then because I felt I was getting further away from my children.

I wanted an exhibition with her because I feel her paintings, which are black and white, complement the strong colour in mine. But I also felt it would help her. I've changed position a lot since their Mum died. I have become aware how important I am in the children's lives and I feel a particular responsibility in Tessanna's case because she's the artist and a soul mate.

Interviews by Angela Neustatter

Tessanna and Jeff's work will be shown together at Gallery 27, 27 Cork Street, London W1 (0171-287 2018) from 6 to 9 April