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Reflection: Iraq exhibition

Posted on by Ben Hodson

British people have ideas, pre-conceptions and stereotypes about what people are like in Iraq and the Middle East.  Equally people who live in these areas have ideas, pre-conceptions and stereotypes about what British people are like. I aimed to show some common humanity and the beauty and dignity to be found in every culture and society. There are three collections of work I exhibited in Iraq; Firstly, a project called Lutopia, which is reproductions of large scale photomontages, depicting everyday scenes from Luton in the UK.  Secondly, the portraits of everyday people living in the town.  Thirdly, there are prints showing some of the exhibitions and events in the UK, that showcased work by Kurdish and Arab artists and photographers.  The project attempts to challenge sensationalist or traditional art responses to war and war zones. I tried to address the cross cultural notion of the “other” or foreigner by showing common humanity.

Reflecting on my work constructed & photomontages

Posted on by Ben Hodson

In my own practice I have been creating slightly more abstract and directly constructed imagery.  My series of work “Light in the Darkness” depict a number of locations and more importantly events where light and dark are captured in tension with each other. The process of painting with light forces me to slow the image creation process down.   I used over 10 Min exposures, torches, flashguns, assistants and lots of jumping up and down to create these fictional events. The images are carefully assembled from pre-conceived ideas and compositions.  The work is inspired by artists such as Jeff Wall or Gregory Crewdson, who are not considered modernist, however, the inclusion of the painting with light technique involves a direct light invention as in the photograms of the modernist photographers.  The simplistic and almost abstract compositions that are produced could also reference modernist inspirations.

 

Another style of work that I have been working on is using montage or more specifically photomontage.  As a technique it is very similar to David Hockney’s Joiners from the 80’s, although it also has close associations with some modernist movements. Taking from Cubism’s lead a number of other modern art movements starting working with collage and photomontage.  Some of the key artists include; Raoul Hausmaan, Hannah Hoch, John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfelde) and the constructionist Alexander Rodechenko.  The format was also used by some of the artists in the Pop Art movement, such as Richard Hamilton, who was known for his re-appropriation of images from popular culture.  With my series “Lutopia” I stood in a location and extensively photographed a scene with an exact number of images.  These images were then cut up and glued to hardboard.

 

The large scale photo-montages depict views of in and around Luton.  The fragmented works envelope the viewer in a distorted panoramic world that seem familiar yet somehow painterly.  The collection makes an enquiry into the photographic image as an object, a self-referring form.  Photography has lost its association with the notion of truth. The work does not resist this change, it embraces it.  There are many imperfections and repetitions in the work. This is intentional, as it again references the passage of time, fragmentation and the cubist inspirations.  More importantly, it shows how I have begun to create and subvert the image to reveal my reality of the place (as a painter would).  Although the image is no longer a true photographic representation it remains connected to my interpretation of the truth of the scene. The terms montage and collage are often used interchangeably and both are associated with the early stages of modernism.

Reflecting on the urban environment

Posted on by Ben Hodson

London Luton, Digital photo-montage Ben Hodson 2009

As part of my on going investigation in space, place and location; I spent some time looking at the urban environment around me. This is what I wrote down:

The urban landscape, its what you make of it.

As I stop and take time to look around at my urban environment, I find myself learning more about how I respond and process the stimuli, then actually noting the facts and details themselves.  I am a skateboarder and a photographer, both of which have forced me to constantly survey my surroundings.  My skateboarding has developed my eye for potential obstacles and the concrete terrain to perform tricks on.  My photography has further pushed my observational skills and I find myself carefully composing every line and shape into pictorially balanced mental-images.  

As I look, I first see a fantastic curved wall, which will certainly become a wonderful concrete wave for me to carve on my board.  Further observation reveals the mixture of very dirty, yet earthy colours, combined with the extensive array of greys.  Occasionally the drab colour scheme is contrasted against a bright, luminous shop sign.  The numerous shop and retail brands litter the main streets forcing commercialism on the weak willed.  The hundreds of signs all offering the “one thing that will make your life better” force us to evaluate our apparently lacking lives.  The well trodden chewing gum brings a relief to the otherwise endless sea of concrete slabs.  The occasional crack draws your eye and the quality of the workmanship is further questioned when you realise how wonky some of the slabs lay.  The platoons of camouflaged pigeons maintain the street order, ensuring all waste food is swapped for a white deposit.

It does not take long  before I notice the nameless masses going about their every day business.  As I observe the people with either bag or child, sometimes both; I realise that no-one has a smile on their face.  The concrete jungle has ensured that all happiness and laughter has been reduced to sadness and depression.  The mundane sky and drooping flower displays, further add to this decaying scene.  The graffiti appears to be the only open form of expression that has been able to make its way to the city centre.  

The travel agencies love to tease the crowds with images of places that seem very far removed.  The idyllic scenes from paradise only remind us of the sharp contrast to our own surroundings.  The numerous clothes shops show us how to dress, while the food shops tell us what to eat.  I suddenly notice a good set of stairs which I should be able to manage jumping down on my skateboard.  A number of trick possibilities fill my head, but they are soon forgotten as a rancid drain smell fills my nostrils.   I quickly move on while bumping into another influx of mindless shoppers.  I find myself more aware of the smells that surround me.  It’s  mostly a mixture of the nearest fast food outlet alongside the usual damp aroma the follows an autumn shower. 

All this seems bearable, that is, until the wave of charity volunteers and telecommunication sales reps shove questionnaires  and their package deals under my nose.  

The urban landscape of the city is what you make of it, I find numerous skateboard-trick opportunities and even a lot of potential for photographic images, but that’s me.

I am interested in the urban landscape, however, I am still not convinced it is going to capture all my attention.