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Dannielle Hodson

While Dannielle Hodson’s large-scale oil paintings teem with physiological details – a grotesquely comic multitude of human and animal eyes, teeth and limbs – these figurative elements evolve out of a kind of primordial abstraction. Each work begins with a process of unplanned, almost automatic mark making, during which the artist is concerned not with creating imagery, but rather with channeling energy from the world outside the canvas onto its flat, bounded plane. Once enough pigment has been amassed, it starts to suggest motifs, in much the same way as certain clouds seem to mimic the shapes of Earthly objects, or shadows on the lunar surface summon up a “man in the moon”. (This subcortical characteristic of visual perception is known as pareidolia, and is intimately connected to the human fight or flight response).

Aware of the embryonic faces pressing through her paint, Hodson works consciously towards bringing them into full being. This is a process that involves both embellishment and sublimation, creation and destruction, and one that tracks the artist’s shifting focus, stimuli and emotional state over the gestation period of a given canvas. The result is a seething mass of pigment, in which the physical boundaries between one monstrous, cartoonish figure and another are destabilized, and any hierarchy between image and abstraction is replaced by a roiling, polymorphous field of paint. To look at these works is to be confronted by an excess of visual information, with nothing in the way of a central, anchoring motif, and they might best be understood as a topography to explore, and perhaps to lose (or indeed find) oneself in.


Informed by Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of the ‘carnivalesque’, Hodson’s paintings present a vision of suppressed libidinal energies let loose on the world, of distinctions between high and low upended, of the messy, democratizing, fundamentally human stuff of desire rising ineluctably to the surface. Recent explorations of the portrait genre, in which the visages of invented sitters are overburdened with an excess of mismatched facial features, cast doubt on the ability of the painted image to frame – and fix – the human subject. Instead, these works position the individual as something closer to a verb than a noun – a process of mutation and endless becoming.


Biography courtesy of the artist’s website.