Tuesday 19th May, London's avant-garde Soho Revue opened the doors to its latest aesthetic delight, the Rubber Soul exhibition. Displaying the tantalisingly tactile creations of London-based artists Georgina Hodgson and Scarlett Bowman, Rubber Soul invites its viewers into an undiscovered world of materiality.
Intuitive and innate, Hodgson and Bowman use innovative process-based techniques to explore fresh expressions of physicality in the form of surfaces, skins and perception-bending reliefs. Although both artists’ reference Georges Perec's Species of Spaces as an inspiration, their diverging explorations take their work worlds apart.
Site-based and personal, Hodgson's eclectic body of objective and inventive reliefs transports minds to places anew. Speaking with Features Associate, Elizabeth Neep, here Hodgson invites PETRIe to explore underneath the surface of Rubber Soul for part one of a two-part series.
Elizabeth Neep: Georgina, please tell our readers a little about your background - where were you born? Where did you receive your education in art?
Georgina Hodgson: I was born in Brighton and grew up in West Sussex, where I lived until I was 19 - we moved three times during that time. I think it was probably in year nine that I decided I wanted to be an artist. I really enjoyed projects, experiments and used to spend quite a lot of time just making stuff, painting. From there I did GCSEs, A-Levels and then went to Brighton and Hove City College to do my Art Foundation. I moved to London to complete my degree at Chelsea College of Art. I never really questioned it; I just knew that I wanted to be an artist.
EN: Can you see a natural development between your work then and now?
GH: When I look back, something I find really striking is that my subject matter has always been something to do with autobiography or my interest in the every day - not just everyone's every day but a slight interest in the mundane, the domestic and our attachment to the domestic. I think that's a really important theme throughout my work.
EN: How do you seek to express these ideas through your use of materials?
GH: I'm very intuitive but also quite curious about different materials so I love getting to know different ways of making things to achieve the same kind of ideas. One day, I was in my studio painting and managed to cover myself completely. I remember sitting there, peeling off paint from the thin plastic apron I was wearing and I loved what this acrylic paint skin did, it kind of curled in on itself and I was like "wow, this is something." I moved everything I had made aside and started exploring this instead. That's how I really started getting into the materiality of skins.
EN: How did this discovery transition into your pieces exhibited in Rubber Soul?
GH: I started experimenting with latex - it's such an interesting and malleable material - and after creating the small skins that I'd peeled off my apron, I was thinking "how can I use these materials on a large scale?" My studio became a bit of a laboratory where I'd experiment with all these materials. My first big piece, A House My Grandfather Built in West Sussex, is actually in the show. I love travelling and never tend to stay in the same place for too long, so I like making things in new places.
EN: Does storytelling play a big role in your work?
GH: Definitely, I start by physically going to a site and just writing about it and maybe even having a conversation with the space, creating a story where the space is talking back to me - I found that a good way of being reflective. Every space has so many memories but I just try to remember one or two and then start writing stories. This is where an element of fiction comes into my work, because I don't think memories are always truth, they are quite subjective. I think the storytelling for me is a very important process because it gives it more depth for me before I make it.
EN: How do you seek to explicitly share this story with the viewer?
GH: It really depends. Sometimes I don't want to give too much information away, so I just give some of the story in the title. Quite often the skins will have hints of what they are and where they are from, but it's interesting to let the viewer see whether they make any links to what they see. I was putting a show up this weekend, and in one of the pieces, Garage in West Sussex, a guy in the gallery spotted an old snail shell trapped in the skin - I think it's these little hints that if you look close enough it starts to unpack its own story.
EN: Can you please explain a bit more about the process in creating these pieces?
GH: I usually start intuitively just starting to paint the latex onto the space, creating a shape. It's quite an intuitive process, quite bodily. It's a process of layering and letting it dry. Once I've got the shape I like, I eventually peel it. I like the way the latex I use can't hold itself up, it's like a shedded skin… it's as if the space shedded some of its history, shedded a story.
EN: How long does it take?
GH: It depends from piece-to-piece but the brick wall took about three weeks. Often my pieces take a long time, which I think is quite a good thing because I obviously can't stay with it for three weeks, so I leave and then come back and it gives me some space to actually think about it.
EN: Do you always go back to places from your childhood? Where else inspires you?
GR: The places I work from are quite scattered. I grew up in the house from which the Brick Wall was created and in 2000, there were floods all around the UK and we had to be evacuated. We moved into a house that used to be an old maternity ward for a year - I loved the fact that it had these traces of what it used to be, beautiful characteristics like skirting boards and switches that didn't really belong in houses. Then we lived in a caravan for a year before moving back to our home - although we had lost quite a few photographs in the flood, it still very much felt like ours. I started making pieces from these spaces but since I moved to London, I have moved every year.
EN: What are your hopes moving forward?
GH: Of course, I want to continue practicing; I'd like to research various spaces and places, creating site-specific projects in the forms of stories and skins. I've got a few ideas for some projects and we've got our Master's degree show fairly soon. I've not set any concrete plans just yet - I'd like to travel more, I'd also like to teach. At the moment I'm researching different spaces, thinking what projects I'd like to do once I've finished my studies, and just trying to continue this momentum really - just keep making.
The Rubber Soul Exhibition runs until Monday 22 June, at Soho Revue Gallery, W1D 4DP.
Interview with Scarlett Bowman: Above The Surface (Part two) -->
Words: Elizabeth Neep
Artwork: Georgina Hodgson
Image Source: Soho Revue Exhibition Catalogue