14 September 2013

Susan Sontag on Howard Hodgkins

Its not that the exotic, or the southern, is required to release the impulse of this 'northern' sensibility to paint. 

But it may be that this painter needs to travel. 

A trip is an intensifer, license to the avid eye (and other senses). You need the separation, from home. And then you need the return home, to consider what you have stored up.

In principle, the painter could make pictures out of everything he has lived through and done and seen. This creates an unbearable acute pressure to paint, and an equally acute feeling of anxiety.  Travel, the impression that one has ventured outside oneself, can be used as a filter and goad. It organizes the desire to paint. It gives it a rhythm and the right kind of delay. 

It is important not to see too much. (And there is nothing to reproduce). Hence Hodgkins doesn't sketch, doesn't take photographs, doesn't do anything obvious to commit to memory the scene or an interior or a view or a face -- instead trusting what will happen when the sight of something has burrowed itself deep down in memory, when it has accumulated emotional and pictorial gravity.

A way of feeling is a way of seeing. 

What is worth painting is what remains in, and is transformed by memory. And what survives the test of long-term deliberation and countless acts of re-vision. Pictures result from the accretion of many decisions (or layers, or brush strokes); some are worked on for years, to find the right exact thickness of feeling.

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