Friday, May 22, 2015

Hogarth and Henry Hudson

crop of the first plate Leaving China New Hopecopyright Henry Hudson
The other day I went to see a quite remarkable show called The Rise and Fall of Young Sen by a young artist called Henry Hudson at Sotheby's Gallery.  If you get a chance to see it before it closes on 29th May I really recommend you visit - and be amazed.

If you do go, be prepared to stay a while, there's an awful lot to see!

The show - and the work - is remarkable for four reasons:
  1. Hudson set himself the challenge of creating a contemporary version of Hogarth's series of images on a moral purpose and has pulled it off. His series of 10 panels is amazing - and then some!
  2. He works in plasticine - it's varnished prior to exhibition.
  3. It's big! He refers to the individual panels weighing something similar to a bronze.
  4. He sold most of the works before the show opened.
Just to give you some sense of the size of this endeavour - here's a view of six of the ten panels in Sothebey's Gallery. At the end of the gallery you can see two people standing in front of one of the panels.

The Rise and Fall of Young Sen - Plates 5-10
Sotheby's Gallery
copyright Henry Hudson
In this instance, updating the series to the present day has involved switching the individual to a young Chinese man who comes to the west to study medicine but who then becomes distracted by the art world and begins a journey through various aspects of the contemporary art scene.

The Autopsy at King's College
There's a myriad of references to contemporary events in the image
Plus spot the reference to Damien Hirst's works
copyright Henry Hudson
I kept being bemused as to which Hogarth series the contemporary version was following. There's an element of A Rake's Progress with a smattering of Marriage √†-la-mode and Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751) in this instance updated to drugs rather than alcohol.  

However what struck me the most was the overwhelming amount of content. It's also not unlike Grayson Perry's The Vanity of Small Differences - particularly in relation to size, perspective and the emphasis on drawing out lots of small but important details. However there's an awful lot more 'content' in these Henry Hudson artworks.

3. Protest and Performance
spot the National Gallery in the background
copyright Henry Hudson
I'm not in the least bit bothered by the similarity. I'm just really pleased that there is yet another artist who is interested in narrative art and social comment on contemporary behaviour!  The fact that like Grayson Perry, he's chosen to make his artwork in a medium not much seen in galleries these days is all the better!

These are links to:
His website also explains the process of how he works

You can see more of his work on his website - including the drawings which appear to be an essential part of the process.

Below you can find images of some of the works in the series.

What isn't mentioned so much is the fact that the series is laden with references to art - both historical and contemporary. In fact it's quite a heavy duty work-out in the "spot the cultural reference" department.

There's everything from a reworking of The Third of May by Goya (and Manet) in the final 'plate'

a crop of The Execution
this tells the story  Young Sen's return to China and his beating and final demise
copyright Henry Hudson
to echoes of the faces painted by Francis Bacon (plus spot The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron)

crop of Rehabilitation
copyright Henry Hudson
in the remarkable work about Rehabilitation - which in turn echoes the paintings of St Remy by Van Gogh topped off with images associated with Jeff Koons and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

copyright Henry Hudson
These are links to articles about the exhibition and the artist. The universal theme is how the series took over his life and consumed all his time for a very long period.

1 comment:

John Simlett said...

Thanks for this, I really enjoyed it. I shall never be able to get to see it, but you give a remarkable commentary.

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