August's Artist Profile
We were lucky enough to be able to go and speak to one of WASP Dundee’s resident artists, Jonathan Hood for the second of our Dundee art profiles.
As always we were interested to know about the artist’s background and artistic education. Hood told us;
“I went to college straight from school but I was very lucky because my school art teacher just encouraged me the whole way. I remember a careers officer when I was about 17, and he said, “What is it you want to do?” and I said “I’m very much sold on the idea of going to Art College”. And he said, “To do what?” And I said, “Drawing and painting”. And his response was, “That’s a woman’s hobby, you can’t do that. How about architecture?” And eventually he said “We’ll compromise, I’ll put you down for art history”. And I thought you’re not listening to me…And he wouldn’t hear me.”
Paris and L'Ecole des Beaux Arts
Despite this Hood did go on to Art College and studied at Duncan of Jordanstone from 1976 to 1979. He then left his studies there to follow the route many of the worlds and history’s most famous artists have; to study in Paris. “That sounds all very grand and everything,” he says, “but it was basically, well, I got into L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris. It was effectively a drawing class but I learned more there than I learned the whole time in Dundee. I was living along the road from the Jeu de Paume and the Pompidou centre, and all these wonderful little private art galleries dotted about the place. If you go over to the left bank in Paris, round Boulevard du Saint-Michel, Rue Saint- Antoine you’ve got all these different tiny galleries. There were these immediate connections to things and it really blew me open. I spent a year there and there’s some wonderful stuff. The way that France and the French deal with painting is different. Painting is very, very much alive.” After this seminal experience in one of the world’s artistic capitals, Hood returned to Scotland.
“I came back 1980/81 and had a few years knocking around…trying to be a rock star at one point…that was quite good fun. But I always painted. At that point I was self employed and I was beginning to get noticed. I spent a little bit of time on the dole, which is always, and was especially so in the 1980s, a very character building situation. But there was this thing called the Enterprise Allowance Scheme so I decided to go on that and got picked up by a couple of galleries in that time and I was doing quite a lot of portraits of people’s dogs and things like that. I paint the whole animal rather than these terrible head and shoulders things. I’d rather do the whole creature.” Whilst Hood attempted to establish himself, he was fortunate to be noticed by Christine Heinzel, an event which may have substantially altered his fortunes. “About 20 years ago, 25 years ago, Chris Heinzel walked through that door, and says “I really like your work,” and she had just opened a gallery in Aberdeen; Gallery Heinzel which is still running though it’s not run by her anymore. One of the best galleries on the East Coast, and I took my work up and she phoned me a week later saying have you got any more? And I said yeah, well why? And she said we’ve sold it all….which was a bit of a shock.”
Inspiration and Method
It isn’t hard to see why Hood’s eye catching work has proved so popular over the course of his career. We wanted to know a little more about how he chooses his subject matter, materials and his method. “I started off doing these landscapes. I was going out just taking photographs, going out walking, and then people started appearing in them and then the people sort of took over.”“I use various techniques to achieve various results. Sometimes I use collage, sometimes if I can’t be bothered painting an aeroplane I’ll cut one out and stick it on. Or taking sports photographs, ripping them up and then sticking them back together, you get all sorts of interesting different forms and shapes. Predominantly I work in oil,” “Before I very rarely used acrylics, but I got started using them through a project. I was asked if I would paint some murals in a little private zoo near Edinburgh. Basically painting backdrops, jungle scenes, things like that and I thought why not, it seems like a good way of sort of cleansing the mind. And I won’t really have to think too much about what’s going where or anything like that. And that was painted in acrylic. That got me back into that and I thought ok, I’m going to try something out on hardboard, because I prefer hardboard. You can get great vibrant colours with acrylic.” Spontaneous inspiration is important to subject selection in Hood’s work also. “One of the things that I do sometimes is I see something and I just get that click. It’s about observing and it’s about taking your time. One of the first things I was taught about when I first went to Art College was looking and observing. And just taking in what you see in front of you, because most people will look at that and say what colour is that wall, well white, but there’s actually all sorts of different things you can be trained to see that aren’t immediately obvious.”
The Future of Art
We asked Hood about what he thinks prevents people from getting into or involved with art? “There’s a lot of fear surrounds art now. A lot of people seem to feel it’s far too far above them, or they don’t understand it.” We asked about what advise Hood would give to those about to embark on an artistic career, the response was practical but ominous. “Students are not taught anything practical at college these days. We used to have a class, materials and methods. And we were taught how to make rabbit glue, we were taught how to make varnishes, you were taught how to make your own primer, prepare your own ground, chalk and gesso and so on. These skills are disappearing fast. I come from a time when we’d spend hours in the dark room processing large black and white prints. People don’t sit in a dark room breathing fumes anymore, it’s all digital. These skills are disappearing, and at our peril.” Fiona MacHugh Jonathan Hood regularly exhibits work in various galleries including the Sun Gallery, Newburgh, Scotland, the Eduardo Allessandro Gallery, Broughty Ferry Scotland, Abiergo Casanova Gallery,Lucca Italy, Jeanne o Contemporain 2012 Orleans, France and the Laurel Gallery, Stockbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland. He welcomes visitors to his WASPS studio during working hours or by appointment, contact: Studio 201, Meadowmill, W. Henderson Wynd, Dundee, DD1 5BY Tel: 0772 933 1250 You can also follow his work on his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/jonathanhoodartist