The eloquence of Courtney Hogarth’s art
A requiem is a mass for the dead, a funeral. It is also the name of Dr Courtney Hogarth’s one-man exhibition at the Olympia Gallery in Papine, St Andrew, from March 7-30.
It is an exhibition of more than “30 paintings and drawings influenced by his mastery of classical Chinese painting, his world travels and an unusual interest in the artistic and spiritual heritage of mankind”, Olympia Gallery said.
The mostly new works, including sketches on paper, were done in ink with brush and pen.
At the official opening recently, Hogarth briefly addressed the gathering but said absolutely nothing about his work. So, outside of the din and excitement of opening night, The Gleaner met with him at Olympia to talk about his style/technique, the theme of the exhibition, and why he did not say anything about his pieces.
When asked if people are ready for his style, which seems to be influenced by Chinese art, Hogarth said he has no particular style.
“As an artist, if you have a style, that is the death of you, because I think that in each moment … and at every stage of your growth, you need to be reinventing the language to say what it is you need to say,” he explained.
In essence, he said, artists must reinvent their visual language, which must be developed, and for him, it is the language of art over style. Yet, he said, “Some things (some of the pieces) have been influenced by the language of classical Chinese painting, but there is nothing in the exhibition, as far as I am concerned, which is Chinese at all.”
Hogarth, a graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, has a master’s degree in painting and a PhD in classical Chinese painting from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He is the director of the Confucius Institute, located on the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies.
Hope Brooks, who introduced him on opening night, in making reference to the pieces on show, said, “In them, one can see the influence of his study of classical Chinese painting techniques as he makes them his own, himself and his style … . I think his work speaks volumes about his accomplishments as an artist, and I hope what I have to say will do justice to this.”
Yet, Hogarth did, in fact, comment on his work, by way of his artist statement, part of which said, “Read at your own pace. Read in your own time … . Suffice it to say that this is a Requiem for a Broken Land. I need not get into the details of the manner in which we are broken, for this is plain to be seen. The work is private, the tears are mine.”
“Courtney’s work speaks to us of his thoughts, his feelings, his ideas and emotions, such as joy and love, and, yes, it speaks to us of sorrow and grieving. These are recurring themes in the paintings, and some of the works make specific reference to this,” Brooks said.
But of which “Broken Land” did he write? Is it Jamaica?
“Most of the land I know is broken, here or elsewhere, as far as I know it,” was Hogarth’s quick and terse response.
ART SPEAKS FOR ITSELF
Brooks said that when she asked him who or what ‘Requiem’ is for, he said that the paintings communicated this title to him. She recalled: “This reply put me in mind of a statement made by Paul Klee, the great Swiss artist, who, at the opening of his own exhibition, said, ‘I stand in the presence of my work that speaks more eloquently than I.’ ”
It is in this frame of mind that Hogarth did not talk about his pieces in his brief address. People wanted much, much more than what he had said, he was told. His response was, “Much, much more is the walls.” Let them speak for themselves.
On opening night, Brooks also said, “The images in this exhibition are powerful, very beautiful, and technically accomplished and they are the medium through which Courtney conveys the emotional and intellectual content that he hopes will connect with you, the viewer.”
Most of the images are faces expressing different types of emotions. He said he cannot tell why they are mainly faces and what the emotions are. The viewer is left to draw his own conclusion. The artist does not have to explain his work, he said.
“I have done the work; the work comes out of a deep place in the artist’s mind and the artist’s imagination. The work is presented to the public, and the public finishes the work,” he explained.