Thursday, 18 March 2010

Robert Hodgins, a great South African painter and a teacher to many painters, curators, plumbers, bankers, died recently. He was eighty nine. I was never fortunate enough to meet Robert Hodgins but my early encounters with his work were memorable. There was a lucidity of colour, coupled to an extraordinary wit and playfulness. And in his paintings, only just emerging out of the paint, were a whole cast of characters grimly evoking South Africa's politicians, powermongers and socialites of the 80's and 90's. In paint he conjured up a farcical world, hinting at its undoing. I watched Cabaret with Liza Minelli recently; perhaps there was something similar in his paintings; an often colour saturated celebration but then underlined in menace.

Robert Hodgins once compared painting to surfing; you have to spend a lot of time out there just bobbing about; but you have to be ready to catch the wave when it comes...
I was teaching a young cohort of surfers at the time, and I quoted him often, so I wrote to Robert Hodgins telling him about my painter surfer students. He generously wrote back- I have the letter, written in pencil, posted from an address in the Karoo somewhere, just tell them to remember that they have to get their feet wet first.

1 comment:

  1. Diana, I loved your letter. I had the privilage to meet Rob and have become friends with both him and Jan Neethling. My wife called Rob up (after getting his number from a lucky-packet :0) and asked whether he would consider being my birthday present. He loved the idea and agreed - but only if everything was kept a secret from me - and if we didn't mind coming on Saturday - as Friday he was having caviar and toast!

    He was a great character and we loved him dearly. We also had the pleasure of seeing him during Dec. and Jan 10 - as we live in London, UK - and we stayed above his art-sudio - a room that was build by Walter Battis' son.

    We have great stories to share and will always remember him with a shine on the cheak...

    He was always the perfect host and enjoyed cooking!
    if you wanted to stay in touch: