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Wilden.herbals meets: Gestures of love. Interview with Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck

Rediscovering gestures on canvas with gouaches that speak of memory. Wilden.herbals meets Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck.

It seems a lifetime since Memories from the Ordinary, Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck’s first personal exhibition in Milan, has taken place. The exhibition was curated by Giulia Giazzoli and Joel Valabraga and occured last September (during that strange social period between the first lockdown and the second one here in Italy) in the pop-up spaces of TENOHA store. TENOHA is a meeting place, a shop, a restaurant and now a point of reference for those who prefer a store with a lot of accuracy and a concept behind. However, Johanna’s was not just an exhibition. At TENOHA we got to know her art and admire her research, influences and artistic path. This interview and our collaboration were precisely born from this peculiar trio: Wilden.herbals, Johanna Tagada and TENOHA.

Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck @Tenoha

Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck’s art is intimate and seems to be about cure more than people. Gesture is essential to her, along with the rituals and all the tiny things that make human nature a unicum to be explored.

French native and born in 1990, she is now based in London but she feels the physiological need to reconnect with nature as soon as she can. When she has a moment to herself she returns to Alsace. These may seem like escapes from the fast-pace world and artistic production, for an artist like her they are precisely self-prescribed treatments. That’s what Johanna loves the most about art: simple gestures. She finds them in nature – in the purest expression ever.

She’s a painter, sculptor, photographer, director and loves the intersection of media but nonetheless embraces the ritual of creation, that precious moment when a spontaneous narrative takes shape. If the philosopher Byung-chul Han theorizes and put “the disappearance of rituals” down in black and white, Johanna chooses simple gestures of loves as the starting point of her art. This is her story.

In the Milan exhibition there are two artworks from the Gestures of Love series: could you tell us more about this new series?

It is a series of paintings depicting moments of tenderness and love expressed by one person towards another in the form of quotidian physical actions. This body of work began in Spring 2020, during the first lockdown. I contemplated painting some of these scenes for a while. It now seems evident that the urge to paint these portraits manifested as I experienced the Covid regulations for the first time – wearing a mask, no longer hugging my family and friends, having only very limited social interactions. As I initiated the series, it was not clear to me that I was depicting moments I was missing to observe and experience.

The paintings are memories of scenes from my daily life, with my husband Jatinder, with my mother in law Bibi. Others are glimpses of strangers’ lives, which I have looked at from a distance with a smile, for example, seeing a father holding his baby son in Auroville, India, back in 2018. Some of these gestures I kept in my mind as soothing memories.
Most of the paintings from this series are created with French gouache paint, which I have since my student-years.

The tea ceremony is a recurring topic in your work. Why is it important for you to share simple gestures made of conscious choices?

We tend to undermine the value of simple gestures, choices, and daily actions, such as eating. What we choose to purchase, to eat can have such nefast effects on our planet. Yet, our decisions can also encourage remarkable community-oriented, respectful, and eco-friendly enterprises. While some brands are great at marketing, playing the green card, I hope more actions from governments and certifications will come into play to reduce the fooling actions. I hope for certificates that will come at no cost for the actual little organic producers, which may at the moment struggle financially to label their organic products.

By now, many of us have been in lockdown, and I am still in this position myself, here in England.  We might realize not all have the chance of having a home and perhaps act to help others; there is an opportunity to grow more compassionate and active in our communities. Through social media (while easily captured, I usually limit my time to no more than 15 minutes per day), I observed that more of us seem to enjoy cooking a meal, selecting and buying quality ingredients rather than many unneeded cheap clothes. I think this is great! There certainly are more gardeners too. While I value consciousness and responsible choice, it is also essential to leave space for spontaneity, others, and life in general. Life to me is not all cerebral either. 

Would you recommend us a recipe with herbs (maybe with the ones growing in your garden) you use for your brews?

These days I like to blend dry organic sage, which I grow in a container here in England, and dry nettles that I have harvested in a basket in my native village in Alsace with organic Gyokuro green tea.

I recently had it with a sort of home-baked apple compote cinnamon ‘Chausson aux pommes.’ The sheer pleasure of this snack undoubtedly lays the co-existence of the flavours and all the good memories associated with them; Japan and friends, England, and purchasing the sage plant years ago with my husband Jatinder, France, and my family.

© 2021 Wilden.herbals – These contents are owned by Wilden.herbals s.r.l. . Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited. Photo © Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck