First published:Summer 2006
Josef Hofer was born deaf and with multiple disabilities. Now in his sixties, he lives in the care home of the Lebenshilfe Oberösterreich in Ried, Austria. For many years he attended a basket-making workshop, but in 1997 he was introduced to a weekly art group, where his great talent for drawing became apparent. Since then he has put all his energy into his art.
Every day, ‘Pepi’, as Hofer is affectionately known, sits at his desk, drawing tirelessly and completely unaided. Pencils in different colours, sharpener and eraser are always in exactly the same place, and he has access to paper in various sizes. He does not appear to mind whether his carer is present or not, but whenever he finishes a new drawing he puts it carefully aside and proudly shows it to her later: her admiration and praise mean a lot to him. He works continuously and with great enthusiasm. His pictures seem to ‘pour’ out of him, and it is hard to get him to stop working so that he can have lunch or go home.
To begin with, Hofer drew agricultural machines and figures which resembled ‘Terminator’ on remnants of wallpaper and office paper. His human figures were always built up in the same way: first he would draw a naked body; then he would dress it in several layers, as if he were putting clothes on it; finally, he would add a kind of protective covering, with screws on both shoulders, as if to ‘lock up’ the figure. One day, another member of the art group was copying a female nude from a picture. Hofer kept glancing at his neighbour and eventually he himself began to draw a naked figure. The result was astonishing, because what he had depicted was a male body.
Ever since that day, Hofer has not ‘locked up’ his figures. Instead, he expresses his curiosity and interest in the male body through his drawings. He proceeds with a child-like lack of inhibition and an innocence which most of the viewers of his pictures have long lost. He applies the same calm precision to the drawing of his nudes as he does to the depiction of a tractor.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #55