Hudson and Klonek: A Plasticine Englishman and a Woodcut Pole

Hudson, Trolley Gallery, London, Klonek- Kemistry Gallery, London

Written by Gareth David

Henry Hudson is a strange chap. I’m absolutely sure of this, though the only evidence I have is his art. I’ve seen plenty of wacky art made by otherwise normal people. You can usually tell. But this is the real deal. Luscious gilt picture frames house these extraordinary works which don’t so much update Hogarth as render a more visceral, decaying Hogarth. The works currently on show at the Trolley Gallery on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch are drawn from the Rake’s Progress and Harlot’s Progress series. They are details and deteriorations. And they are paintings made of plasticine, stained with tea.

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Hudson’s selection of the imagery brings us the moment when squalour invades the Eighteenth Century gentleman’s oasis of luxury. Everything is opulence bought with bad debts that are just turning nasty. A beautiful wall mounting for a candle tries to maintain its dignity beneath menacing cracks in the cieling. It feels like a very contemporary concern, refracted through a prism of history which we are doomed to repeat.
Fundamentally, these are works which straddle being good fun art, and being a veiled threat. It’s original, and supremely confident work, and leaves me in no doubt about one thing: Henry Hudson is a strange chap.

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On the other side of Shoreditch, Roman Klonek is exhibiting his stunningly vibrant woodcuts. 20th Century Russian Propaganda jostles with the lowbrow feel of Fantagraphics comix or some of Spumco‘s more knowing animation.

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Some of this is really stark and simple. A hairy-faced man does some ironing, but somehow it turns into an existential moment for him, but then, wait; that is filtered somehow through the bold and bright cuteness of it all. It’s as if Camus were a gonk. Other scenes are more complex, with a few figures going about their business, totally isolated from one another. I was reminded of some of Balthus’s better works, but with colour sense that comes purely from early comics.

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Some of the most striking works are laid out as comic book front covers, in fact, with text in Polish, Russian, and Japanese. Klonek’s work is seriously slick, and his background in graphics show’s through. Almost all of these prints made me wish there wre an animated TV show which made almost no sense and looked just like a Klonek. There’s just something about his associations betwen the cartoon world and the exotic characters of foriegn alphabets and spellings that draws you in and thrills. Judging by the little red dots appearing by the works, I’m not the only one who felt the need for a some Klonek in my life.

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Henry Hudson is at the Trolley Gallery until July 25, while Roman Klonek closes at Kemistry Gallery on May 30.

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