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.”
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.