Debutantes: Gregory Hodge - Art Collector

Issue 67, January - March 2014

This profile appeared in the Debutantes feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2014.

Gregory Hodge. Photo: Zan Wimberley

Nothing quite screams debutante for a young artist than a first solo exhibition at a leading commercial gallery that sells out almost instantly. And that is what happened for Canberra born and based painter Gregory Hodge, whose show at Sullivan + Strumpf in July 2013 heralded the arrival of a hot new talent in contemporary Australian painting. Prior to his commercial debut, Hodge had gained traction with shows primarily in artist-run spaces in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne catching the eye of Artbank who acquired a work called Mystic Magazines in 2012. Added to Hodge’s growing solo practice is a budding collaborative venture with partner Clare Thackway, who also maintains a solo practice of her own.

When I spoke with Hodge he had just landed on Australian ground after a two-month research trip to Europe funded by the Australian National University, where he is currently a PhD candidate. Travelling through Antwerp, Ghent, Rome, Venice and Berlin, Hodge absorbed countless Baroque paintings along the way to further his understanding of
trompe l’oeil techniques. He is more interested in studying the composition rather than the content, identifying the illusionistic devices used in representational still life and genre paintings as useful tools for his investigation into abstraction.

Hodge plans on loosely applying his research to a new body of work to be shown at Sullivan + Strumpf in August 2014, following his inclusion in a January group show there. Once in the studio, the process begins with the construction of crudely taped collages made from transparent drafting film. The collages are never exhibited; rather he creates a distance from these haphazard forms by fixing them in paint. His process begins by examining composition conventions from representational art historical sources and applying them to a painterly form of abstraction born from ephemeral collaged origins. The perceptual illusion is enhanced by exaggerated cast shadows, which along with his colourful palette achieves a dazzling dance of pattern and form. That said, Hodge insists he is more interested in intrigue and mystery over achieving a cheap perceptual trick.

On the surface it appears as if painterly gestures come hard and fast when in fact they are carefully contrived and planned. Hodge thoughtfully offsets the stacked layers of hot colours with more subdued and ambiguous variations so that his paintings never merely yield to psychedelic novelty value.

Says gallery director Joanna Strumpf: “Hodge’s paintings – his grand sweeping gestures of kaleidoscopic colour launched into our gallery last year, with great gusto and much acclaim. I eagerly look forward to watching how the work progresses over the next few years.” As do we.

Daniel Mudie Cunningham

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