Private faces in public places
28 March - 15 April 2009
Of politicians the poet W. H. Auden (1907 – 1975) once wrote: “Private faces in public places/are wiser and nicer/than public faces in private places” (“Shorts” 1927 – 1932). Robert Hodgins chose these lines to introduce a new suite of etchings, monotypes and watercolours on show at GALLERY AOP.
The almost anonymous type of face and figure that predominates in these works on paper, professes the same kind of humble anonymity for important people in their daily dealings with other people. The situations Hodgins depicts are no less worthy of respect and reverence: graduation ceremonies are implied, and so are new positions of power and adherence to old traditions in such works as The Graduate, New Boys, and Ancestor. But these figures are all types rather than individuals. Hodgins’s observation and commentary are fierce and sharp, often resulting in wry, ironic portraits of our social, economic and political aspirations, yet always fresh and enjoyable, of the follies and frailty of humanity. They are not the damning portraits of people of power that Hodgins is fond of portraying in his oil paintings. Rather, they are subtle and humble parodies of human aspiration and want, executed with sheer joy of and love for humanity, based on an astute observation of human nature.
The enjoyment that Hodgins experiences when working on the copper/perspex plate in the printing studio, reveling in the line, forms, textures, colours and characters revealed when proofing, is evident in this group of intimate works on paper.
“For contemporary artists” Hodgins once wrote (1996) “the act of making art is essentially a private ritual, perhaps secretive act. Sure, media pressures compel one to talk about that act, those art works, but what goes on in the studio at any given moment is such a jumble of meditation, instantaneous decision, change of direction, memories dredged up, astonishment by what is happening on the surface before one, that subsequent comment is often no more than that of a slightly more informed bystander. Complexities of time, circumstance, history and place, and, perhaps, genes, made the making of the works a generous experience.”