Christopher Hodges Under The Skin

April 2021

3 April - 1 May

exhibition essay

Christopher Hodges:  “Under the Skin”

Some reflections arising from an encounter.

I

The current edition of Artist Profile carries an important interview with Christopher Hodges that not only relates directly to his work today, but may be taken as paralleling this exhibition before us. Of many interesting things said there, several comments he offers are worth noting because of the doors they open to contemplation of what may be found in “Under the Skin”. Two in particular catch the attention:

“I’m exploring the universality of human beings - our collective consciousness - which allows us to admire unknown things from other cultures. There is a curiosity that unites people, even though we are all different. There is something that binds us all together - and it’s that thread that I’m interested in.” ; ....and, separately,

“Nature is perfectly imperfect. If the shape was purely mathematical it would be too much. I love mathematics and I love organic form. I love when a work is right on the edge and you have just enough of one to give it order and one to give it humanity. That fine line is quite important.”

II

In encountering the works of the show, we have two principal resources with which we can appreciate what is offered: vision and ourselves holistically experienced. (The artist has also provided suggestive titles for each of his works to help, presumably, the initial orientation of our thought.) The fundamental enabling essence of vision is light, and the infinite spectrum of its conditions: colour. And the content of vision is ordered by form. In the practical everyday use of our eyes, the focal point dominates vision and gives rise to our usual functional sense of objectivity.

In 1938 Martin Buber published a small but important book titled in translation “I and Thou”, in which he distinguished two ways by which we see things, and thus establish a relationship with those things: ‘I-It’ and ‘I-Thou’. Buber noted how in the rapidly expanding big cities of his day, cities wherein people more usually encountered strangers rather than familiar friends, the ‘I-It’ mode had become predominant. People busy with their own concerns had begun generally to expediently bypass the ‘I-Thou’ at the core of human relationships, replacing it with stylised and conventional politenesses, if not play acting masks, and this had become a widespread habit of “disconnectedness”, and thus “normal”.

What then is the essence of the ‘I-Thou’ relationship? In a word, empathy disciplined by objectivity, a holistic conscious awareness, or mirroring, of the humanly recognisable unfolding actuality of the expressions and inner states of the other. It involves the releasing transcendence of the constraint of the eyes by their focal point, and achieves the integrated perception of the other’s active fullness as living human beings, both in their outwardness and their inwardness.

III

A first glance around this show confronts the eye with geometric motifs. The Ancients already recognised the line, together with the horizontal and the perpendicular as the fundamental structuring principles of the actual world within which nature flourishes. And thus the square was to them a special form. But they held that the most perfect of all forms was the circle, a line without beginning or end, and with perfect symmetry. But more. All points constituting the circle possessed a unique tangent, and the perpendiculars to all these tangents at their respective tangential points intersected at one unique additional point - not of the circle - but absolutely essential to the circle: the centre, a point which was both its generative principle and the principle of its unity.

Fascinatingly, the centre is a point not of the circle, devoid of material presence, though the crucial principle to its very constitution, but is both “sensed” and yet invisible. But how is it sensed? Also empathically.

IV

When two friends make a good conversation, two speakers partner to make one line of discourse.   The talk is grasped cognitively by each, and both separately contribute creatively to the coherent inner unity of the conversation as it progressively unfolds. Each friend attunes empathically to the creating human centre of the other in forming the friendly partnership that underlines, enables and sustains their conversation.

And so it is with serious Art. Our artist today is best understood as the friend of us all, a friend who invites in a special way all to enter into a remarkable non-linguistic conversation of which the artworks offered form the opening statement.

Rudolf Talmacs, 2021

Christopher Hodges:  “Under the Skin”

Some reflections arising from an encounter.

I

The current edition of Artist Profile carries an important interview with Christopher Hodges that not only relates directly to his work today, but may be taken as paralleling this exhibition before us. Of many interesting things said there, several comments he offers are worth noting because of the doors they open to contemplation of what may be found in “Under the Skin”. Two in particular catch the attention:

“I’m exploring the universality of human beings - our collective consciousness - which allows us to admire unknown things from other cultures. There is a curiosity that unites people, even though we are all different. There is something that binds us all together - and it’s that thread that I’m interested in.” ; ....and, separately,

“Nature is perfectly imperfect. If the shape was purely mathematical it would be too much. I love mathematics and I love organic form. I love when a work is right on the edge and you have just enough of one to give it order and one to give it humanity. That fine line is quite important.”

II

In encountering the works of the show, we have two principal resources with which we can appreciate what is offered: vision and ourselves holistically experienced. (The artist has also provided suggestive titles for each of his works to help, presumably, the initial orientation of our thought.) The fundamental enabling essence of vision is light, and the infinite spectrum of its conditions: colour. And the content of vision is ordered by form. In the practical everyday use of our eyes, the focal point dominates vision and gives rise to our usual functional sense of objectivity.

In 1938 Martin Buber published a small but important book titled in translation “I and Thou”, in which he distinguished two ways by which we see things, and thus establish a relationship with those things: ‘I-It’ and ‘I-Thou’. Buber noted how in the rapidly expanding big cities of his day, cities wherein people more usually encountered strangers rather than familiar friends, the ‘I-It’ mode had become predominant. People busy with their own concerns had begun generally to expediently bypass the ‘I-Thou’ at the core of human relationships, replacing it with stylised and conventional politenesses, if not play acting masks, and this had become a widespread habit of “disconnectedness”, and thus “normal”.

What then is the essence of the ‘I-Thou’ relationship? In a word, empathy disciplined by objectivity, a holistic conscious awareness, or mirroring, of the humanly recognisable unfolding actuality of the expressions and inner states of the other. It involves the releasing transcendence of the constraint of the eyes by their focal point, and achieves the integrated perception of the other’s active fullness as living human beings, both in their outwardness and their inwardness.

III

A first glance around this show confronts the eye with geometric motifs. The Ancients already recognised the line, together with the horizontal and the perpendicular as the fundamental structuring principles of the actual world within which nature flourishes. And thus the square was to them a special form. But they held that the most perfect of all forms was the circle, a line without beginning or end, and with perfect symmetry. But more. All points constituting the circle possessed a unique tangent, and the perpendiculars to all these tangents at their respective tangential points intersected at one unique additional point - not of the circle - but absolutely essential to the circle: the centre, a point which was both its generative principle and the principle of its unity.

Fascinatingly, the centre is a point not of the circle, devoid of material presence, though the crucial principle to its very constitution, but is both “sensed” and yet invisible. But how is it sensed? Also empathically.

IV

When two friends make a good conversation, two speakers partner to make one line of discourse.   The talk is grasped cognitively by each, and both separately contribute creatively to the coherent inner unity of the conversation as it progressively unfolds. Each friend attunes empathically to the creating human centre of the other in forming the friendly partnership that underlines, enables and sustains their conversation.

And so it is with serious Art. Our artist today is best understood as the friend of us all, a friend who invites in a special way all to enter into a remarkable non-linguistic conversation of which the artworks offered form the opening statement.

Rudolf Talmacs, 2021