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Hodgson reflecting (all images courtesy Clive Hodgson)

Editor’s Note: This is the 11th in a series of interviews with artists that will continue indefinitely, without direction, and outside any one person’s control. The artists are asked seven questions about their art and their ideas about art. The questions are blunt, but open-ended enough to be answered in any way the artist chooses. The final question is a request for the artist to select the next artist to be interviewed — anyone they wish, well-known or unknown, working in any medium, anywhere — any artist whose work they think highly of, an artist deserving the same public interrogation.

Clive Hodgson started as an abstract painter, switched to figuration, then turned back to abstraction after his distaste for narrative and object-based painting grew; he found that it was no longer tenable. Now he makes paintings within which he takes up ideas about painting itself. His touch is light and compositions airy and loose. His forms and marks feel impulsive yet locked in by virtue of their gestural authority.

Hodgson was recommended by fellow Londoner and abstract painter Sherman Sam, who had this to say about the artist: “He makes tough, critical paintings. He spends a lot of time doubting things, hence why he is one of my favorite people to spend time seeing and talking art with.”

*   *   *

Clive Hodgson, “Untitled” (2014), oil on canvas, 40.5 x 30.5 cm

Rob Colvin: Why did you become an artist?

Clive Hodgson: As a child I loved pens, paper, inks, paints, brushes, notebooks, and so on. I always wanted to fill the notebooks with writing, but I didn’t really know what to write, and I wanted to experiment with paints, inks, drawing materials, etc. Whenever I saw art, especially painting, I recognized that it meant something to me. Also, I had a great sense of my internal world as a kind of freedom and independence (my home life was not agreeable). I still wish I could fill notebooks with writing, but it is getting too late. I continue to buy them just in case.

Clive Hodgson, “Untitled” (2013), acrylic on canvas, 152 x 108 cm (click to enlarge)

RC: How would you describe your development and what you’re doing now?

CH: I thought of painting as a very wide field — I didn’t want to narrow down. I still like the idea that all sorts of things are possible. Also, maybe naïvely, I felt that I wanted my work to be “mine,” concerned with my experience of the world. I have good intentions but find that most of my ideas are banal and repetitive. There is a vast weight of art history and current art to negotiate. The problem doesn’t get any easier — I find myself in a permanent state of crisis within which I feel I must be able to find at least some scraps of something that seems viable and vital.

Oil painting by Hodgson’s grandfather

RC: Have you been influenced by anyone or anything in particular?

CH: My grandfather was a postman in Yorkshire who painted in the shed in his garden. He was untutored, very modest, and painted from his memories of the Merchant Navy and the Yorkshire dales. I still find real charm in his painting. He was the first person to let me use oil paint, when I was about seven. He showed me how to do a bush, using one brush with olive green and chrome yellow in small amounts on it (he was miserly with paint). I loved the little stripy daubs he made. I knew that this was significant. I loved the materials, their smell, their look, and what might be done with them.

More generally, I want to be influenced by as much as possible, but I feel like someone in a postbox who can only see part of the world through the posting slot.

Clive Hodgson, “Untitled” (2013), acrylic on unstretched canvas, 45 x 36 cm

RC: What challenges are unique to your process?

CH: Keeping going is a challenge, but also where the pleasure might lie. Empty canvases are beautifully full of potential and very easily become disgusting. In driving terms, my method is like repeatedly going for a drive and crashing the car each time, because one time you didn’t crash and saw some nice parts of Cornwall.

Clive Hodgson, “Untitled” (2013), acrylic on unstretched canvas, 44 x 37 cm (click to enlarge)

RC: If you could own any work of art, what would it be?

CH: I have no real desire to own any more objects. I place a high value on being able to see great things in museums and galleries. I often like certain qualities in paintings that are not great, or are even lousy. I want to take what I can get in that way, rather than having objects.

RC: So what is art anyway?

CH: What is the function of a goldfish?

I don’t know. Any answer would be very limiting.

RC: Who should be interviewed next?

CH: The artist Susan Morris. I recognize in her work a rather unwitting, incoherent and impressionable self.

Clive Hodgson, “Untitled,” acrylic on unstretched canvas, 150 x105 cm

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Rob Colvin

Rob Colvin is the editor and publisher of Arts Magazine. Reviews and interviews are published on Instagram,...

3 replies on “Artists Pick Artists: Clive Hodgson”

  1. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to continue doing that stuff. To the dustbin with it. Take up knitting for your grandchildren or doing charity work…

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thanks for commenting. I’d like use your reaction as an opportunity to explain why I started this interview series.

      Since I began writing about art, specifically art criticism, I felt that it was my responsibility to engage with art outside my tastes, especially art that I would instinctively dislike or disregard. This is hard to do, since it goes against one’s own habits of mind, one’s own nature, to take seriously what your instincts tell you to avoid or is not worth your time. So I needed a system of self-challenge.

      This took the form of setting up an interview series where I cannot (nor can anyone) control the art and artists I engage with. But to keep the quality high, to find art worth attention, the art comes by way of recommendations from artists already recommended. It is a mechanism of self-vetting for quality (for me, at least, since I am an artist). It works. Many if not most of these artists have great critical and commercial success, institutional standing that I intentionally eliminate all mention of in my introductions. This, to keep the focus on the art and artists, and also be inclusive to readers, especially artist readers, who might feel alienated by the success of others. It’s the art and artists that matter.

      Almost none of the artists I have interviewed make work that I instinctively liked when I first encountered it. And I’ve explained, this uncomfortable encounter is by design. Also by design is a requirement for me to invest in the work, collaborate with the artist, and understand the work to the extent that I can write an introduction to it meaningfully.

      Hodgson’s work challenged me. It stuck with me. When I was in London, he allowed me to visit his studio and I admitted that I envied his freedom, the permission he gives himself to paint as he does without falling into rules most of us painters find ourselves holding on to. That is apparent in the work here and more so by viewing it in person. His work has stretched my understanding of painting in tangible ways.

      It takes time to overcome one’s limits of perception, but I think this series offers a means of doing that. Maybe you’ll stick around for more of the unfamiliar.

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