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At the end of Robert Hodgins’ long life, he found being ill “just too tedious!” and was frustrated at the fact that “ I cannot paint!” He was involved in The Great Human Drama, right to his last day. He left a legacy of compelling work behind him, which is evident in the exhibition now at Wits Art Museum, a wide survey of his works in print media, and monotype. Take the opportunity to see this show before it closes on 6 April 2013.
Possessed of a mischievous and curious eye with which he critically evaluated the doings of humankind; a lively wit, the sensitivity to include himself in his impressions of our species, and a healthy cynicism, Hodgins was above all the keenest observer of life one could meet. Painting, drawing and printing constantly taught him more about life and the process of producing images. He approached his canvas or paper with feeling and intellect, and found the act of image-making exciting, amusing, but also an intelligent means to understand and examine life, in all its splendour and grossness at once.
This first solo exhibition at Goodman Gallery since his passing in March 2010 presents a full range of his diverse oeuvre, with pencil drawings, prints, a watercolour, tapestry, monoprints, ceramic sculpture and oil painting.
Robert Hodgins was born in Dulwich, England in 1920. In 1954 he became a Lecturer at the School of Art, Pretoria Technical College, where he remained until 1962. Then he took up a position as Journalist and Critic for Newscheck magazine. Between 1966 and 1983 he was a Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand Fine Art Department. At the end of 1983 he retired to take up painting full-time. Some paintings convey a feeling of deep seriousness and sadness; the paintings depict a sense of confusion that many people experience. However Hodgins believed that being an artist is about creating something new, an artist perfects the art of ingeniously reinventing content within society.
“Being an artist is about putting something into your subject matter that isn’t inherently there,” wrote Hodgins in 2000. “You are not at the mercy of your subject matter, it’s the content, and what you put into it, what you do with it, what extract from it, and what you put it with, that is so exciting. If you are aware of this, then you begin to build on the content of your whole life. Before you know where you are, you’re already thinking about the next work, and you could live to be 300. Paintings can be one-night stands or lifetime love-affairs – you never know until you get cracking”