‘Dreaming on Foot’
in Henry Hudson: nothing sticks to nothing
Hannah Barry Gallery, London
Written on the occassion of nothing sticks to nothing, a solo presentation of six new paintings by British artist Henry Hudson at Hannah Barry Gallery (31 January - 16 March 2019).
The new cycle of works were the first in his career to use a combination of encaustic wax with plasticine and were shown with a large-scale, custom-fitted Scagliola floor designed by the artist, providing a scenography and stage for an accompanying performance programme including artists Luchinda Chua, Jack Warne (Gaunt) and Olivia Parkes, Rachel Allen, and William Rees (Mystery Jets).
In response to the exhibition, an accompanying catalgoue was produced featuring essays from myself and Ruth Pilston, an interview with madFaber and new poetry from Rachel Allen.
“Left to his solitary expedition, Herzog dovetails through a prolonged of state of “dreaming on foot”, merging his fictional thoughts with the landscape around him: apparitions of war and eccentric characters weld to the snow-laced foliage of the Black Forest, the Rhine and the Seine; a style of writing which found its precedent in the obscure visions of J. G. Ballard’s schizophrenic doctor (variably known as Talbert, Traven, Travis or Talbot), whose surrounding milieu in The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) invades and splinters his mind into a series of hybrid psychological landscapes—part reality, part fiction. As Herzog himself notes of his wilderness, “Only if this were a film would I consider it real. Truth itself wanders through the forests.”
In the same way that the twisted landscapes of Ballard and Herzog came to embody their own truth, the essence of Henry Hudson’s show lies in the liminal space between object and subject; exterior and interior, inspired as much by their emphasis on the ouroboros nature of inner and outer landscapes as he is the psychology of walking itself, its positive effects on mental health and psychic wellbeing. It is in a way the show’s greatest inspiration: the nature of walking and its relationship to recovery and overcoming. Its paintings are hung curiously low, as if you were really walking amongst them—lost in the forest. Henry himself spends an hour everyday walking through London’s parks. For him—like many—it is an important ritual.
Devoid of a clear protagonist, the paintings exhibited in nothing sticks to nothing bleed onto the scagliola floor. Their aura is diffused in the room like the echo of a birdsong after dark - fluttering between the cold skin of the trees and the mind of its beholder. Walking around the exhibition, one can’t help but feel a close affinity to the words of Werner Herzog: as if one were “dreaming on foot.” Looming forth from its glacial miasma, forgotten faces appear like apparitions from a fog of ice, as if one had stared too long in the reflection of a frozen mirror. Curlicules of magenta, orange and violet transform the horizon into a single, rapturous beacon of faith. One so compelling and absorbing that those who enter its realm, much like a dream, scarcely remember how they got there. A dream that is so immediate, urgent and real, that even nothing sticks to nothing.”