Northern Soul

Brian Hodgson and Ben Long
18 January 2002 to 20 February 2002

Curated by Brian Hodgson

Brian Hodgson moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to London in search of a place to make art. He noticed that London, as a cultural centre, would absorb people into its particular scene, where influences from other parts of the country would often be swallowed up by the dominance of metropolitan urbanity. While foreign cultural influences are increasingly celebrated as being representative of the diverse cultural mix in the capital, manifestations of ‘regional’ tendencies are perhaps overlooked within the bigger picture of the contemporary art scene in Britain. This exhibition addressed this gap by presenting the work of two artists from ‘the north’ whose methods and concerns derive their driving force from their particular cultural backgrounds.

Hodgson is interested in ideas to do with the duality of nature, with its cycles of deterioration and renewal. He remembers his childhood in Newcastle, in a time when the shipbuilding industry was in decline, seeing all around him the transformation of materials, particularly of painted metal, as they fell into disuse. He was fascinated by these phenomena, seeing beauty and creative possibilities in materials which had lost their original use value. For the works in this exhibition, Hodgson used found metal panels, with varying degrees of wear, giving them a new lease of life by transforming them into objects that, while retaining their history, gain a new identity. The result is a body of quietly beautiful works that speak of history, hopes, and a recognition of the constant renewal of life.

Ben Long also shows his cultural influences in his working methods, but in his case, these originate more from an observation of the cultural experiences of the people in his immediate environment. Raised in Lancaster, Long also moved to London to be an artist. Having experienced life outside an urban setting, he perceived a discrepancy between notions of art in the minds of people with varying degrees of knowledge. This gave him the desire to make art that would be of interest not just to people with a more specialised interest in art, but also to those who may feel puzzled by what they read in the media.

His ongoing project Great Travelling Art Exhibition invites people to look at, and reassess, their ideas about what they see as art. Using the dusty back panels of trucks and vans that travel around the country as his ‘freshly primed canvas’, he surprises people by the juxtaposition of easily recognised subject matter and their unfamiliar setting. Where people only expect to see inane statements such as ‘I wish my wife was as dirty as this’, Long presents images from their daily lives, attempting to stimulate thought on possibilities in art practice.