Ascending Pleasures

..."All styles can come down to noise," wrote poet and critic William Empson and I think Hall's pictures are getting to that. Which is the source of their galloping power. However many objects Hall borrows from his friends to paint, however many unlikely Hollywood skyscapes he purloins from photo-books to brush in behind his tableaux, whatever the juxtaposition of garlic-and-sapphires-in-the-mud he scoops up from the San Miguel de Allende marketplace and carries home to arrange and photograph and work from, the force of the pictures lies in the ritualized syntax of his teeming surfaces. Yes, there is pleasure for the viewer in the naming of what makes up each painting, in the Edenic democracy of one thing being equal to another in any picture in the sobering equality of beauty and rot presented in deadpan motley. But that is an ascending pleasure, a pleasure encountered on the way to an eventual surrender to the overallness of Hall's pictures. As far as I can see, they are symbolist in nature, symbolism here being understood as an employment of pattern, symmetry (or near symmetry, or compositional rightness) and an elusive quasi-sense (trying to "crack" their meaning will drive you mad) in the interests of some kind of summary performance. This performance is the painter's work, a painterly validation of the artist's being-in-the-world. In just such a sense is Hall the maker of an epic, ongoing autobiography of taste and (subsequent) meaning. His tastes and his subsequent meaning. Not anybody else's.

Gary Michael Dault

BorderCrossings, Summer 1994