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.


About dianapage

Artist moving between countries, cities and media. Currently living in Istanbul, formerly resident in Cape Town, South Africa. Divide my time between the solitude of the studio and walking the city and playing with friends.
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2 Responses to

  1. tiogerber says:

    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:

  2. brendon says:

    I aaalmost met him. Apparently he passed through the Maritzburg university fine art dept one day and made a favourable comment about one of my sculptures. Pity not to have met him, he was one of the best.

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