1 - 18 June 2011
In his new work, Universe, consisting of 60 paintings on handmade paper, Greg Hodge casts light on a multiplicity of visual experiences while maintaining an opaque layer of invisibility over his specific intentions. To pull aside a curtain is a gesture that moves from enclosure to exposure and facilitates illumination from shadow. The viewer’s imagination is pulled in the direction of this understanding, as each panel builds in rhythmic intensity by virtue of its relationship with its neighbouring panels – Universe pulses with the ecstatic impulses of rave culture, with its concomitant conflicts between sensual abandonment and corporeal crash.
To pull aside a curtain is a gesture that moves from enclosure to exposure and facilitates illumination from shadow. In his new work, Universe, consisting of 60 paintings on handmade paper, Greg Hodge casts light on a multiplicity of visual experiences while maintaining an opaque layer of invisibility over his specific intentions. A small number of the painted panels incorporated within Universe appear to literally refer to the rippling surface effects and scalloped bottom edge we associate with curtains. At times, these appear to fall on a stage upon which the action is either yet to occur or on which the final encore has possibly already taken place.
This theatrical device is an apparently suitable metaphor for Hodge’s work, which involves an idiosyncratic language of almost endless visual diversity, delivered to his audience via the familiar repetition of a formal grid structure. The result is a bravura performance of complex spatial ambiguity. Hodge achieves his mise-en-scene as carefully crafted sleight of hand while paradoxically managing to evoke for us the focussed delivery of information familiar to the user of a personal computer.
Just as one moves, with minute physical action and without apparent logic, from page to page in search of particular information while surfing the Net, so the viewer is transported from unit to unit within the lexicon of Universe. The end result involves the viewer in an ethereal experience with this series of panels, each glowing with the modular radiance of technology, while simultaneously celebrating the hand-crafted object.
Not surprisingly, given the work’s title, Universe lacks the linear narrative we associate with popular cinema to drive its inherent visual action. However, the artist certainly doesn’t hold back from the creation of special effects. Colour and form flourish, blossom and morph into alien states with hallucinogenic abandon on this wall-mounted ‘ground’. The intriguing imagery embedded into the work suggests sci-fi fantasy with a cubic structure either flaring with white light as it hurtles into the void, or alternately suspended in a shimmering atmosphere of magenta and violet.
Hodge, however, manages to align this futurist spirit to more immediate concerns and appears to have adapted aspects of Islamic decoration to his project. This has been achieved by appropriating this material with a seemingly fin-de-siecle Orientalist approach. As a formal entity, Universe carries echoes of the jewel-like appearance of Persian carpets, the tendril-like materiality of Jali – the pierced stone screens of Moghul India’ and tawriq – the mesmeric coloured mosaics of Morocco. The work also echoes the unmistakeable blossoming of light into material form of millefiori glassware. These evocations of the exotic aren’t necessarily consciously intended on the part of the artist, however, as pictorial echoes of the ‘other’ they are integral to Hodge’s positioning of his work as alternative to perceived reality.
As much as Universe elicits our admiration of beauty, the work supports a parallel reading as the potential blossoming of the perilous depths of desire. For example, one particular panel appears at once to be the head of a white iris, whilst also taking on the faceted form of crystalline substance. Taken in its entirety, Universe pulses with the ecstatic impulses of rave culture, with its concomitant conflicts between sensual abandonment and corporeal crash. Again, while not necessarily intended by the artist, the viewer’s imagination is pulled in the direction of this understanding, as each panel builds in rhythmic intensity by virtue of its relationship with its neighbouring panels.
The complex construction of Universe is like a genealogical chart of abstractions, with each unit of information possessing the ability to inform and provide context for its companion cells within the grid. In this way, the work transcends the conventions established by the tradition of the Modernist grid without recourse to the idiot grin of irony.
With this work, Greg Hodge has invited his audience to pull back the curtain ‘to have a look at what might be taking place on the other side’ and in doing so, has provided us with permission to be voyeurs. This crucial point of juncture between artist and viewer hovers above mere sight and flutters ambiguously, deliciously, between the intimacy of participation and the elegant detachment of simply viewing with pleasure.
- Mark Bayly