Henry Hudson (1982) is a British artist who works across painting, sculpture, ceramics, installation and printing-making. Hudson’s critical practice is expressed through the exploration of various techniques and materials, including ceramics, plasticine, scagliola, oil painting, 3D printing, wax, sand and textiles. The work extends into the digital realm using the iPad, scanners and uv printers that inform his contemporary portraiture, iPad dreams and hysteria works, which are playfully concerned with the public and the private, outrage and reaction, as well as robotic prothesis and questions of authorship and legacy.
Henry Hudson’s work is inspired by a multitude of sources new and old in which British art plays a formative role. His work often delivers art historical references (The Rise and Fall of Young Sen revisits the pictorial satire of William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress) with which to frame his practice, clearly reflecting the artist’s decisive study of David Hockney, Leon Kossoff, Sigmund Freud, Frank Auerbach and other members of the School of London.
Within the contemporary pastels and digital neon colours of his Jungle series and wax Snowscapes, there is a sense of Anselm Kiefer’s biblical darkness, mirroring the exploration of the human condition in the tradition of van Gogh’s dichotomy between interior and exterior landscape. Mental health orbits through his oeuvre in both the subject matter, mark making and its material richness, speaking of physical production and the therapeutic aspects inherently implied therein.
In Hudson’s studio, the materials are limitless—a possible condition that was first revealed to him in the work of Sterling Ruby. Together with discourses around flatness in Rauschenberg’s and Ed Ruscha’s art, first conceptualised as “the flatbed picture plane” in Leo Steinberg’s MoMA lecture in 1968, these American pioneers served as liberating forces as to what painting is and isn’t, highlighting instead what it can be. To adopt the words of Ashley Bickerton “Painting is far too cartoony and lacks the backbone of factuality; photography is too clinical and incapable of loony launches into the ether; and sculpture can be just downright presumptuous. […] Only in their combination do I find comfort.” As a result, Hudson’s often large-scale productions include the rediscovery of Baroque scagliola, plasticine, spray paint on resin reliefs, wax, oil painting, Woodbury Type and more generally a variety of printing processes, ceramics in collaborations with the artists brother. Between eight and ten people work in Hudson’s Hackney studio who bring a different set of skills, experiences and predispositions into the work.
Other parts of Hudson’s practice, his tapestries for example, engage with society’s critical tissue, offering commentary on the contemporary by connecting the geopolitical state of the world, technology in form of apps and the circulation of information with classical motifs of the past. Quoting Bosch, Breughel, Ballard and Herzog, his work often sketches the fantastic stories around where we are today and might be in the future: YouPorn turns ceramic vase, giving sci-fi glazed shapes to a real society between love anorexia and emotional agoraphobia.