James Hogan, the Art Upstart. A man whose paintings are quite literally the expression of everything he is.
When James asked me to look at his paintings he wanted me to be brutally honest. The sort of request that usually makes me quite nervous. But my reaction to them was immediate and very positive. I loved their ‘abstractedness’. I responded to the colours; the combination of the cornish whites, blues and blacks; the deep blood red and the ochre; and the joyous yellows and oranges. I wanted to explore the deep gouges in the paint surface (still wet in places) and follow the peaks of impasto and feel the gritty sand embedded in the paint (brought up from the beach in a bucket!). In his studio are piles of paint tubes, Kings blue deep, each one squeezed violently and distorted, testament to the energy with which he approaches each painting.
The images are at the same time both inherently simple and intensely complex. The basic shapes of circles, triangles and intersecting lines are composed of many layers and depths. The paintings have a commanding presence when viewed across a room or at the end of a corridor but must also be seen in the detail, close up, to witeness the sheer joy of the paint.
Some of the paintings are undoubtedly challenging, complex,even nightmarish and frightening, and definitely not for the faint-hearted, but their place is crucial when seen within the greater framework. They make the joyous onces even more uplifting and optimistic.
For James they are full of meaning, deep from his own experiences, and the process of painting them has been cathartic, paralleled with the writing of the book. The words and images tell a story. It is a herculean task; the full plan is 225 paintings, each one a stepping stone, a landmark or a mile stone. And all this from someone who has had no traditional art training and who looks to no other artist for inspiration or influence.
But one feels compelled to draw comparisons. The intensity and sheer volume of paint brings to mind the work of Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, and there are similarities in technique; the use of palette knife and the scraping-back of the paint before loading in on again, building layer after layer. The subject matter has parallels with Paul Feiler; the swirling circle exploring space, tone and light.
James seems to put a little bit of himself into every painting. He has a very driven impulse, a need to create. There are no preparatory sketches or drawings, the paint is worked straight onto the canvas with a palette knife, scraped back and reapplied, wet-on-wet, the colours mixed on canvas. He uses broad, gestural slabs of colour, often threatening to leave the canvas and spill onto the frame. The image in his head is so strong, that the transfer from mind to canvas is direct and immediate. The result is one of incredible impact and strength. Each painting has a vibrant energy which demands attention. I defy anyone to stay silent in front of any of them. They inspire comment.
James is not a follower; he has charted his own artistic course, approaching, his subjects in a way that lets the viewer see the world in a new light. His work takes courage, the paintings are emotionally charged , and at times it has been a painful process – echoed in the very physical nature of the painting process. His paintings, like him, are flamboyant, brilliant and passionate. He is the Art Upstart.