Q&A with Samuel Hodge - Art Collector

Samuel Hodge, Balancing Rock, 2015. Digital archive print, 58 X 75cm. Courtesy: the artist and Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne

Camilla Wagstaff chats to photomedia aritst Samuel Hodge ahead of his solo exhibtion On Trending at Anna Pappas Gallery in Melbourne.

Your coming show at Anna Pappas Gallery explores how we as a society choose what is aesthetically right and wrong, what’s in or out. Can you briefly discuss how these decisions about taste are made and why they change?
With this as a basis, it's really about me and about how I personally see trends and how I myself am insecure and self-conscious about how I perceive what is trending in the world. But this is just a shaky platform for the work I'm producing for the show. What I'm taking aim at are my own insecurities and those things that make me feel uncomfortable. How when I can make a work I might feel physically sick or that an audience who might be familiar with my previous works might also feel a sense of nausea towards. Why as a society tastes are made and are changed? I am not sure. But we definitely choose things to be right and wrong during different periods of time. I'm always behind in what's big in popular music for years. And I will discover a much-loved band but apparently five years too late and I am told this band is no longer cool. Reasons given might be that they are now so popular their music isn’t cool. But, of course this is ridiculous. How can a song be called bad because society has decided this style of song is now over ... until it isn’t over. Basically, I have no answers. Which I'm comfortable with.

The new series also speaks to how we become aware (or remain unaware) of the influence of the academy and academic art practice on our sense of purpose and meaning. Who is aware? Who is unaware?
Here I'm speaking to my own insecurities. I’m currently in the midst of study at the moment for the first time in my adult life. One thing I notice are artists are very much academics at the moment. I am not saying this is a bad thing. But it is something that I have noticed is really a thing of this time. I am questioning whether or not I’m allowed in the present day to, say, just make work that I find pretty? Or can I get sentimental and focus a series of work on a failed romance and just get super corny and embarrass myself?

So how have these influences have impacted your own sense of purpose as an artist?
I think the last few years I have been impacted greatly from these influences. Firstly through osmosis and then through study and structure. I would never discount academia and I can see its appeal and have benefited greatly from this structure in recent years. I have also become aware that I could sink with over thinking of my practice. For me this academisation of my thoughts towards my own practice has worried me a little. So in terms of my purpose what I'm exhibiting is essentially a concentrated version of my insecurities on all thoughts related to my practice presently. A real clusterfuck.

The new works aim to reclaim romance and embrace the corny, the embarrassing and the nerdy. Why is this important to you?
This is because this has always been who I am. I guess I am a big nerd, I don't think I’m particularly cool. I think from a distance some people think this ... but then I open my mouth. But in terms of embarrassing, I'm facing situations that are embarrassing. I'm making work that is sentimental and about a failed romance. This is the essence. It's kind of gross and no one wants to hear about this. Especially me.

Your practice draws on, investigates and reappropriates different forms of image production. In your recent show at Alaska Projects in Sydney for example, you combined your own archival material with digitally manipulated 35mm images to create new histories. What’s the approach in this series?
This show has a focus on new work. In essence I have made new works that are based around two trips. One to regional NSW to explore my hometown with someone quite special to me. And the second which is about the following of this person to Europe to essentially play out the end of some kind of relationship that may or may not have existed. These works are all represented in abstract / non-figurative prints and installations. How this will be all laid out and installed will be decided on the day of installation.

Samuel Hodge, St George, 2015. Fine Art Inkjet Print, 20 x 12cm. Courtesy: the artist and Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne

What is the relationship between analogue and digital processes in the new work?
Well the basics are, if I'm working with photography I shoot on film. These negatives are then scanned and digitised and then there is a digital print of the work in the end. This series for On Trending is really quite manipulated digitally. Maybe more so than any other work I've done. It has included 100s of hours in my studio and two major trips to complete. The process itself is really long and expensive in terms of how I manipulate the images. These include a lot of works where I hand paint with dyes, re-photograph or scan and re collage and re painted and so forth. I feel the work get's to a point where it's a ball of energy and I've compressed the numbers to as far as they can go and I'm done.

What's next?
In March and April I’m in a group show at Artspace, Auckland called For Collective Unconscious alongside Léuli Eshraghi, Dale Harding, Lonnie Hutchinson, Alex Monteith, Catherine Opie, Emily Roysdon, and Wolfgang Tillmans. That's really exciting for me. After this, I begin working with Sebastian Goldspink on a larger exhibition of my works to presented at Alaska Projects William Street sometime in the second half of the year. What this exhibition is about is to be argued.

On Trending Shows at Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne, from 1 April to 7 May 2016.

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