For the past 22 years James Hugonin has made just one painting each year. From his studio in the Cheviot Hills, in the border country between England and Scotland, Hugonin works constantly on these intense evocations of colour and light, comprised of thousands of tiny coloured marks fluctuating across the surface. Not surprisingly, exhibitions of his work are rare, and so we are pleased to be celebrating the artist’s 60th birthday by presenting a survey of his six most recent paintings, alongside two early works that first began this current series over twenty years ago.
Untitled (I), now in the collection of the Arts Council of England, was begun in 1988 and since then Hugonin has completed a total of 18 identically sized and structured paintings, all of which had the same starting point; a grid made by scoring lines with a silverpoint wire into the surface of a gessoed board. The gradual change from painting to painting is determined by the way in which the way in which the grid is filled in with strokes of colour: from the almost colourless glazes that made paintings of luminous translucency in the early years, to the increasingly bold and solid pigments that fizz across the surface of the most recent paintings.
The analogy to music is clear: each painting is a balancing act of rhythm and pace and gentle movement. Since 2002 Hugonin has even written a score for each work before making the first mark: not a precise set of rules, but more an organic document that recalls the notation of composers such as Morton Feldman and Philip Glass. As Michael Harrison (director of Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge) has observed “the paintings carry with them that pace, that slowness, that sense of time. They ask us to slow down, and to look, and to settle as we would to listen to a piece of music, allowing time to take effect – to acknowledge that, for all their quietness and stillness, our relationship to them is one of continual change”.
Untitled (I) and Untitled (II) will be shown together in the smaller gallery (Gallery II), with the six most recent paintings Untitled (XIII) to Untitled (XVIII) grouped together in Gallery I. In showing these works together this exhibition explores the remarkable and somehow dramatic shift in Hugonin's practice over the last 20 years, despite the inherent understated quality of the works.
A 68pp casebound book will be published to celebrate the exhibition at a special exhibition price of £20