Gregory Hodge is an artist and lecturer in painting at the University of Wollongong. His most recent exhibition, Signs, was shown at Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney in 2017. This year, he has shown at ABHK 2018 with Sullivan+Strumpf and been shortlisted for both the Geelong Art Prize and the Sir John Sulman Prize. He is represented by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney | Singapore.
MCPHEE: Where did you go to high school? What years? Were there any interesting features about your school?
GH: Marist College Canberra 1995-2000
I studied art and photography in year 11 and 12 and while the school was mostly focused on academic subjects we had great facilities for art, drama and music.
MCPHEE: Tell us about a high school art teacher that inspired you to be an artist? What was their name and what things do you remember about them?
GH: Jenny Hawes and Di Broomhall taught me in year 11 and 12 and were really encouraging about art.
MCPHEE: Which artists did he/she love and teach you about?
GH: I remember Mrs. Hawes was into abstraction and first introduced us to abstract expressionism. I wasn’t wild about abstraction then but it definitely planted a seed.
MCPHEE: Who was in your class? Tell us about the room/ environment that you worked in? What were the perks? (eg. Did you listen to music/watch art programs?)
GH: It was a real mixed bag! In year 12 there were some of us that took the class really seriously but it was also considered a bludge subject. The art room was in a separate building from the rest of the school so there were lots of kids just hanging out who weren’t in class.
It was two stories with four big studios. Thinking back it was an amazing space. We had a kiln to fire ceramics and big painting studios. There was also a photography room with a darkroom attached.
As seniors, you could work in the studios on free periods so there was a small crew of us who were keen who worked in the studios a lot.
MCPHEE: Can you tell us about an artwork that you made during high school that you liked? What was the reaction from your teacher or friends? Where is it now?
GH: I made a giant landscape painting in Year 12. In the foreground was a boardwalk with hibiscus flowers and butterflies. The boardwalk looked out onto three perfect waves breaking into a bay surrounded by green ferns and trees. I copied images of birds and snakes in the trees straight out of National Geographic and the whole scene was inspired by the National park up in Noosa.
MCPHEE: Did your art teacher encourage you to pursue a career in the arts? (how?)
GH: They were always super encouraging but the idea of a career as an artist was never something that was on the cards.
MCPHEE: Did you meet any established artists or visit a working studio during when you were a teen?
GH: No. I had no concept of what being an artist looked like until I went to art school. I started surfing and skating when I was about 15. I was super inspired by slightly older guys mostly from the public schools and colleges who were making music, doing graffiti and hanging out at the skateparks.
MCPHEE: Did you visit art galleries / museums during high school? Can you tell us about an experience you had there?
GH: My parents friend Lesley Parker is an artist from Sydney and she and her husband Ken would come and stay with us in Canberra when the NGA had a big blockbuster on.
In late ’97 There was a Rembrandt show on and Mum had told Ken and Lesly that I was into art so they invited me to come to the show with them. I was 15 and I’ll never forget that experience. I remember the paintings, however what had a lasting impact was watching Ken and Leslie looking at the work and listening to the audio guide. I remember watching them as they moved through the show to try and understand how long you needed to stand in front of a work etc.
They took me out for lunch afterward and we sat around in a café talking about the paintings and they asked me which works I liked the best and why.
MCPHEE: Which artists or artworks were you obsessed with as a teenager?
GH: There was a poster in the painting studio of a Turner exhibition and a catalog in the staffroom. I looked at that catalog a lot.
I also loved Eugene von Guerard landscapes and worked really hard at trying to copy his technique of painting tree ferns.
I also filled my visual diary with drawings of perfect waves and bikini models that I copied straight out of Tracks magazine.
MCPHEE: Did you stay in touch with your art teacher? What are they up to now?
GH: My first solo exhibition after finishing art school Jenny Hawes wrote me a letter saying she went to my show. That was really encouraging.
MCPHEE: Were you encouraged by your parents/family as well as teacher?
MCPHEE: Do you have any images you can include as part of this interview?A pic of your teacher? A pic of you as a teenager? A pic of an artwork you made? Anything else related (an art award?). Do you still have anything that you stole from art class?
Mum and dad have lived with my big landscape surf painting in their living room until they sold the house recently.