Paul Hodgson: The Art of Doubt

Artist Paul Hodgson spent some time at the Institute as a Director’s Visitor last fall. He created the work he is pictured with at left (shown here in progress) in a studio on campus and gave the talk “Honest Doubt” to the Friends of the Institute for Advanced Study (see video at http://video.ias.­edu/hodgson-honest-doubt), excerpts of which follow.

  • I started to use doubt as a subject in my work while I was an undergraduate student in the Fine Art Department at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • In works from this time, the elements that I chose were presented through the use of collage, monotype and screenprint, through the pouring of paint, and the smearing of paint, but rarely through the use of a “signature” mark with the aid of a brush; they are second and third hand, layered and fragmented.
  • The various ways in which I have recorded elements on the surface of the canvas are joined together by one common factor: distrust in laying down a direct mark.
  • Why choose one set of elements instead of another, and one narrative order out of many?
  • In some works, I intend doubtfulness to permeate both the pose of the figure portrayed, the thinness of the gestural area of paint behind him, and the fact that, unable to settle upon a single “style,” I move from paint­erly gesture—a thin scrapping of paint—to photographic material, to thick encrusted pigment.
  • In other works, I want to suggest the moment before a decision is made; a decision that might serve to separate two forms, two ideas—perhaps rendering one dark and one light.
  • The work that I have been developing over the last few years could be described as a form of “meta-painting,” or “meta-image” making; work that attempts to communicate content by revealing its own artifice; content that is, in itself, attempting to express doubtfulness over certain assumed ideas that help propagate this artifice in the first place.