Robert Hodgins (1920-2010) was based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The late Robert Hodgins generously produced this charming print after a sell-out show at the Goodman Gallery in 2009. Characteristic of his satirical reflections on society at large, Miss Priss is a delightful five colour lithograph printed with dexterity at the Artists’ Press Studio by Mark Attwood and his assistants.
From ArtThrob’s Art Bio by Michael Smith, February 2009:
Painting is at once a very refined and primitive pursuit. The apparently unassailable authority of painting as fine art practice enables it to operate in circles of power, influence and status. Yet its mechanics are often a set of simple, anti-technological menial tasks, downright mucky, imprecise and visceral. Few South African artists create works that embody this dichotomy quite like Robert Hodgins. His images, quietly deconstructing the poses and posturing of the elite while hanging on their walls, play a deceptive visual game of jolly coloration and faux naïveté.
The cornerstone of Hodgins’ approach is, of course, a sophisticated understanding of paint and the act of making pictures, not indulged for its own sake, but one that is constantly pushed into fresh avenues of possibility. His complex pictorial understanding and peerless coloration belie superficially brutal, often deliberately messy brushwork. Sometimes venturing as far as self-deprecation in scale and simplicity, Hodgins’ paintings nonetheless always have a nasty sting, the aftertaste of sharp social observation.
Hodgins tempers this pessimism with a visual humour, and a broader handle on people: an empathy with human folly seems to inform his representation of both victims and his aggressors. Often likened to Bacon, Hodgins in fact has a greater affinity with Guston, recasting the latter’s American banality and abject baseness as a passing parade of South African tragicomedy. Like another arch-satirist and source of inspiration playwright Alfred Jarry, Hodgins’ truths lie amongst the ruins of power eviscerated by its own absurdity.
Hodgins’ utterances on painting are as much a part of his audience’s understanding of his work as the works themselves. Statements like describing painting as being ‘a bit like surfing’, or as either ‘one-night stands or lifetime love-affairs’ are classic Hodgins.
Robert Hodgins was born in Dulwich, England in 1920. In 1954 he became a Lecturer at the School of Art, Pretoria Technical College, where he remained until 1962. Then he took up a position as Journalist and Critic for Newscheck magazine. Between 1966 and 1983 he was a Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand Fine Art Department. At the end of 1983 he retired to take up painting full-time. Some paintings convey a feeling of deep seriousness and sadness; the paintings depict a sense of confusion that many people experience. However Hodgins believed that being an artist is about creating something new, an artist perfects the art of ingeniously reinventing content within society.
“Being an artist is about putting something into your subject matter that isn’t inherently there,” wrote Hodgins in 2000. “You are not at the mercy of your subject matter, it’s the content, and what you put into it, what you do with it, what extract from it, and what you put it with, that is so exciting. If you are aware of this, then you begin to build on the content of your whole life. Before you know where you are, you’re already thinking about the next work, and you could live to be 300. Paintings can be one-night stands or lifetime love-affairs – you never know until you get cracking” – Robert Hodgins