A couple of weeks ago, I went to the opening of Australian artist Gregory Hodge’s latest exhibition, Signs, at Sullivan + Strumpf gallery in Zetland.
Immediately, his opening felt different to almost every other I have ever been to. It was weird—people were actually looking at the art. And they weren’t even just looking; they were really staring, lost in the sweeping gestures of colour before them. I’ve never seen a shorter bar line at a packed exhibition, ever. For those who missed it, there’s still a week left for you to head over and lose yourself in his stunning mazes of paint and collage. In the meantime, we talked to Greg about his process, working at such a large scale, and the pros and cons of eavesdropping at your own exhibition opening.
Can you explain your creative process for the works in this show?
The starting point for each painting is a suspended construction built in my studio made of painted abstract cut-outs. Working from life as well as from photographs, each of the paintings in the show acknowledges observational details of the previous hanging structure.
What is the meaning behind the exhibition name, Signs?
Signs is a reference to motifs in the work which appear to stand sculpturally like street signs or signposts. It also refers to elements in the work simultaneously appearing as image and abstraction.
In terms of the colours, do you experiment or do a ‘draft’ of the work you want to create before you attempt it on a large canvas, or do some of the shades and palettes just happen once you start painting?
The colour in my work varies from highly saturated to more nuanced. I mostly establish colour relationships for a larger painting when developing the hanging construction so it is generally mapped out beforehand. Colour in the gestural marks refer to fabric wrapped around a body and reflected light on water. There is also colour that comes from textiles, carpet, geological forms and photocopies.
Your works are pretty huge! Is there a reason you work on such a large scale?
Scale is important in this body of work. The paintings are physical and demanding to make, though at a larger scale their illusory space operates on multiple levels. Up close the works can appear as materiality and surface while at varying distances they are pictorial and illusionistic.
What’s a day like in your studio? Do you drink tea? Listen to music? Go mad?
I work in a studio that is attached to my house and work over a number of paintings simultaneously. I work generally during the day, though with upcoming shows I’ll be in there well through the night! I keep the studio private with not a lot of visitors until paintings are complete. Music is part of my daily routine and I like to listen to a broad range as well as footy on the radio.
Do you ever hover around at your exhibition openings and listen to critiques of your work?
No. My grandfather once told me that Sidney Nolan would move around his own shows not identifying himself as the artist and ask people their opinions of the work. Openings, though great, can sometimes be a little overwhelming and generally not the space where you receive constructive criticism.