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In the Studio with Alba Hodsoll

British artist Alba Hodsoll explores sexuality at the forefront of her graphic works, from the use of crisp lineatures to restrained colour palettes. We met with Alba to tell us more about her upbringing, practice, and journey to the artist she is today.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

When someone asked to buy something I had made. No, seriously, I think It was about three years into art college when I started to get an idea of how difficult the pursuit of the life of an artist would be in the long term. Image making, mark making or making art, whatever you call it, was proving to be the most effective way for me to communicate.

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I’m from London, I grew up in London. When I was twelve my family (and I) moved to Morocco for a year, we lived in the desert and didn’t go to school and spent two months in India. I probably learned more in that year than I had done previously in all my years of schooling. I remember people asking me when I got back to England “but what did you do all day!??” and I remember thinking “what do you mean?”

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience? 

I didn’t want to go to university so I went to New York for what was supposed to be a three month trip and turned into almost seven years. I applied to the School of Visual Arts in the city after living there for two years already. I went in as a photo major and after a year I switched to a very small department in the college called ‘Visual Critical Studies’, following the advice of one of my professors. The department was much more academically based with lots of reading and research on the syllabus, then almost in response, physical work would be made. This has continued to be the way I make work. I like to fill my head to capacity with something, whatever takes me, normally an obsession with something and then essentially purge (in the studio).

What’s the message of your work? Are there themes/narratives/purpose?

I think there are definitely narratives and or themes surrounding intimacy, touch, sometimes sensuality and sexuality.

Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic?

I prefer to hear other people’s descriptions of my aesthetic, I always find out more about my work and myself through other people. It’s one of the joys of having your work be seen.

Who and what are your greatest influences? 

Who: Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Rachel Whiteread, Cindy Sherman, Georgia O’Keeffe, Tracey Emin, Agnes Martin, Henri Matisse, Sarah Lucas, Paula Rego, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth (so many more).

What: Nature, the shapes of things, stories.

Agnes Martin, The Islands, 1961

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?

I think whenever I have had an audience consciously in mind or tried too hard to plan a work, I find myself severely disappointed at the outcome and it normally goes in the bin. It can be a real challenge when it comes to the actual making part of work that I am able to shut the door to the studio. To shut everyone, all potential audiences, critics and admirers out, because they have no place in the making of work, but they are crucial in helping me finish it, by viewing it. Then it’s not really up to me what form the work takes on.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you stick to one medium? Do you experiment? Do you see any parameters to your work?

Usually I find out through everyone else which events might have mobilized a change in my practice, through talking about my work with others. I have tried a new medium out with every show I have done so far; I find this challenge very useful in pushing the parameters of my work.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

Unfortunately or fortunately for me, I have to be pretty uncomfortable and in enough discomfort or even pain to say “ok, it’s time to make something about this!” I normally end up making a body of work about something that has become an obsession that lives inside my head, hijacking all other trails of thought.  Something that started off quite fun and then becomes intolerable.

How has your art practice been affected by self-isolation?

Like many others I’m sure, I have come up against myself during isolation. Conversing with my shadow, good and bad. Some things had floated to the surface that might have to be further investigated as opposed to stuffed back under, which is easier to do in everyday life, especially when the rest of the world is moving at a million miles per hour!

I am quite comfortable in isolation at the best of times, not that it’s very good for me if not interrupted. However, I do feel different knowing the rest of the world is also isolating, there is a power in that. I have been thinking about lots of people; people I know and also people I don’t know, wondering what they might be coming up against, what they are learning about themselves or other things.

Are you creating new work while social distancing?

Yes.

How are you staying creative?

I’m keeping things very simple, primal.

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