Category: Art Review


Art review: Jenny Hudson

In 2010 I attended an exhibition  at Blackburn College’s University Centre.  It was the graduation of the latest class of Fine Arts students and I was there to see some real art, something I didn’t often get the chance to do.

Unlike your average gallery, university showings are usually full of people who want to talk about what they’re looking at, rather than browsing with pious silence.  This is why I like them, and why I turned up off a train from Sheffield to invade the halls of this building and go from classroom to classroom, each of which had been turned into a mini studio.

I’ve been on a university art course, so I’ll be the first to say that such places produce a lot of crap.  My field was writing, and I know bad writing.  Many people will probably agree on what I would call bad art, and there was  a modest share on display at the Blackburn exhibit.  But I was glad to see a lot of experimental art, a rough and ready mix of funky stuff, a few pieces featuring Spider-Man which gave me geek-grins, and a number of portraits.

An artist who stood out was Jenny Hudsen née Sumner, who has recently uploaded her portfolio to Redbubble.  A portrait artist from Great Harwood near Blackburn, Jenny has a flair for capturing personality on canvas.

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I’m lucky enough to know Jenny and subjected her to a quick Q&A session this month.  For an artist she is surprisingly grounded and laconically describes herself as “Deadpan.  Realistic.  Recluse.”  Devoid of airs and graces, she recognises the difficulties of being in a creative field.

“[The difficulties are] the same as in any creative profession: lack of demand, lack of audience and huge competition.  There are millions of very talented artists in the world.  Unlike the music industry, for example, there aren’t many people who require or can afford art, and it seems out of reach.  The art world is also an intimidating place for most, and the stigma of pretentiousness that is attached to it doesn’t help.  I try to keep things simple and unpretentious.  Hopefully my work is more accessible than some other forms of contemporary art.”

To Jenny, art is a philosophy.  She is a fan of any medium, as long as it is emotive and touches a nerve.   She says that “[a]s long as people have opinions and questions, art will always be necessary.”

She isn’t afraid to rise to her own challenge either: her portraits burst with character and emotion.

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"Mum 4" - Jenny Hudson

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SAMSUNG

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SAMSUNG

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Jenny told me, “I like the challenge of a portrait.  If the structural drawing beneath the paint isn’t accurate, then the whole piece fails.  It’s personal satisfaction more than anything else, though it is also satisfying when a person recognises themselves or a loved one and remarks on the similarity.  I feel like I’ve done my job correctly.”

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Far be it for this reviewer to define an artist’s job.  This, surely, is subjective and personal.  Open to self-analysis, Jenny didn’t mind being probed about the modest hues in her portraits:

“I think the pale pallette was mostly down to a lack of confidence; as the years have progressed, so has the depth of colour.  These days I think I’ve “found” the style with which I’m most comfortable, and the pallette has become bolder with more contrast.  My most recent painting shows this clearly, when compared to past portraits.  However, I am very influenced by Euan Uglow, who often made his structural pencil marks visible beneath the paint.  I like how this “spells out” how a painting is constructed, and how this is immediately available to the audience.  I think it makes the whole thing less intimidating and more logical to the viewer.”

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DB:  If any artist in history offered to paint your portrait, who would you want it to be and why?

JH:  Euan Uglow.  He kept things simple and analytical, which is what I aim for.  His structural pencil marks were often visible through the paint, which made it easier for the viewer to “understand”.  Part of the the reason why I used to use very thin, pale paint was because of Uglow.  To me, it’s like a writer presenting their research as well as the finished novel, or mathematician showing their “workings” as well as the final solution.  I like people seeing how art is created.

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DB:  Last film you watched?  Last album you listened to? (if not most recent, then favourites)

JH:  I watch several films a day now that we have Netflix!  One of my favourites is still Adaptation [2002, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman].  I watched that again last week. It’s such an hilarious and clever representation of the creative process, and all the self-deprecation and doubt that accompanies it, as well as what can happen under pressure. My music interests change weekly, at the moment it seems to be 90s-00s hip hop!

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DB:  Who or what inspires you most, in life, not just in painting?

JH:  I’m sure this is most peoples’ stock answer, but my Mum. She’s the reason I’m still here.

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Jenny Hudson

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Jenny’s profile and gallery can be found on Rebubble here.

She is also currently taking queries and commissions via her e-mail address, renmus [at] hotmail.co.uk.

— db

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So Facebook has its uses.  It comes to my attention that this week in the UK is “National Stationery Week”.

What does that mean?  Apparently it’s an effort to increase literacy in children and even get them hand-writing more letters.

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National Stationery Week

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Organiser Chris Leonard-Morgan says:

“Writing by hand is more important than ever in today’s digital age, and we are very excited to have the opportunity to work with the National Literacy Trust which is the only national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK, and does amazing work in this area.”

(quote stolen from www.literacytrust.org.uk)

The official site here tells us that “technology has merely distracted us from the joy and importance of writing, it hasn’t replaced it. ”

Too right.  I remember some great days when convenience didn’t stop me and a good friend writing long letters by hand during intolerable University terms breaks.  Envelopes decorated with poor doodles would fly back and forth via the stalwarts at Royal Mail (who also sponsor NSW).

Receiving a hand-written letter in the morning to read with a nice cup of Earl Grey made me feel like this:

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Snoopy Happy Dance

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— only surrounded by giant swirls of colour, stars and moonbeams.

Receiving an e-mail, however nice its contents, doesn’t really match that feeling.

In an effort to celebrate I’m going to reminisce about the contents of my old school pencil case.

A rectangular tin.  What was on it?  Silver on the inside, scuffed with streaks of graphite and a spot of ink.

Containing:

—  One HB pencil, stubby, with teeth marks.

— One HB pencil, brand new, ideally with a rubber on the end (not to be used until stubby is too short to sharpen)

— A small silver pencil sharpener

— A rhomboid rubber with two colours

— One each black and red Biro

— A “good pen” (not for lending)

— A translucent blue protractor, and likewise set-square and six inch ruler

— At one time or another, maybe a mouse-shaped Tip-Ex “pen” for all those botched maths answers.

This was circa 1997.  Those were the days.

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https://i0.wp.com/www.bagsoflove.co.uk/images/h-printed-pencil-case_l.jpg

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I’m all for getting people to hand write letters.  It’d be a fascinating experiment to see how people get by without predictive text and spellcheck.

And maybe it will get people being creative again.

Draw a little doodle.  Love your friends.  Send joy in an envelope to someone!

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https://i0.wp.com/theharperstudio.com/wp-content/themes/harperStudio/images/2009/08/send-a-letter.jpg

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— db

I occasionally get the chance to review early copies of books and magazines, and usually jump at the chance.  This has backfired once or twice – one author sent me a 350-page pile of steaming dung that I gave up on, only to be stuck on his mailing list and receiving endless self promotion despite numerous entreaties and threats – but often I get a real treat.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Morpheus Tales‘ special Apocalypse issue.  There are a number of special issues floating around from this publisher but this one caught my eye, not least because my novel “Half Discovered Wings” was a good stab at my own brand of what I call “apocalypsia” fiction.  I was interested in seeing what other writers came up with.

 

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This fantastically pulpy cover houses 12 stories.  There’s probably a surfeit of material here as there are more than a few uninspiring duds.  Thankfully the rest of the magazine is made up of some crackers which, if they don’t get you thinking, will at the very least give you a good dose of end-of-the-world fun to perfectly suit a dreary March afternoon.

I’ll skip some of the less original flops but, with the good stuff in sight, will open with “Long Cold Night” by Richard Farren Barber.  Apocalypsia relies on a decent concept that will be the foundation of the story.  In Stephen King’s “The Stand”, we can believe that a killer virus wiped out a helluva lot of people.  That’s what viruses do.  In Barber’s story here, we’re led to believe that oil running out sooner than expected causes the end of civilization.  People are roaming the countryside for food.  I don’t quite buy how this is possible and despite some credible writing, the story fails before it really begins.  We’re told that green energies weren’t enough, but aren’t told why.  I’m pretty sure that the governments of the world can figure something out with solar panels and nuclear energy, which currently supplies something like 15% of the world’s electricity.  Are we forgetting that we got by for thousands of years before Edison pinged his first bulb…?

A sad failure, but hopefully one that makes a point.  I get tired of harping on about it, but originality should be the cornerstone of every single story you write.  “Long Cold Night” takes an idea that hasn’t really been closely examined (I seem to remember the inspid sci-fi family fungus that was Matt LeBlanc’s “Lost in Space” mentioning it, but little else since), which is commendable.  But it smacks of lack of research, and worse than this, fails even to take a poor concept and make it believable, if not plausible.

Just keeping things plausible doesn’t mean you’re automatically onto a winner though, nor is the other way around true.  A series of immense sinkholes follows the inexplicable draining of the oceans in the sweet little story “Songs of Goodbye” by Dev Jarrett.  Do I believe that 326 million trillion gallons of water (I’m trusting Google there) can just drain into the Earth’s crust?  Not really.  But did I care when I watched a father and daughter share a moment together?  Nope!  Dev exhibits fine prose and great descriptive talent.  The writer’s similies are flawless and keep the narrative jumping until the characters take over.  This is probably my pick of the stories.

A creepy little number called “Thunder Bay” is another highlight.  This brief tale by Robin Wyatt Dunn gives us a glimpse into the un-life of a cannibalistic reanimated corpse.  It’s like “Omega Man” got X-rated.  First person with snappy narrative, this is writing as opposed to just telling a story, and stands out a mile amidst the the rest of this month’s Morpheus Tales.

Whereas these two personal faves represent the magazine’s total stock of literary goodness, it’s probably fair to say that you don’t pick up an “Apocalypse Special” expecting talent worthy of critical acclaim.  Other writers have done it – I’m thinking “The Road” and “The Drowned World” here – but it’s also a genre for some good old fun…

“Generation Sorrow” by J. B. Ronan.  Either this story is tongue-in-cheek ironic or just plain silly (I prefer to think the former) but this story of porcine genetic modification gone wrong is an enjoyable read, suitably dark and vivid, and has an interesting premise for the decline of modern society.  The special gets another short jolt of dark humour with “My Pretty Pony” by Alan Loewen.  This amusing piece gives readers a little giggle and Hasbro a cause to sue.  A welcome tonic from the dreariness of the rest of the mag.

Even though Matt Brolly’s “Yellow” is yet another take on the “virus ends everything” trope, it still rings truer than many other stories of its type.  The special’s final story is a cracker (even if it does contain the dumb line “the suicides are too dangerous to live”) and is worth special attention with a cup of tea by the window with the wind blowing outside.  His prose isn’t up to J. G. Ballard’s standard but it hums along fine; it’s the moments of insights into his characters that keep this moving along, maybe remind us on the way of “The Happening” or the flashback scenes from “I Am Legend“.

Is the mag worth picking up?  At a temporary special price of £4, I’d say yes, especially as you can have it beamed straight to your smartphone or ebook.  Hunker down, ignore the clouds outside and let the world end.

—db

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The Morpheus Tales Apocalypse Special Issue is available from Lulu.com here.

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