Mon, 27th Mar 2017 15:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 142
Lot 142 - Robert Hodgins (South Africa 1920-2010)


Robert Hodgins (South Africa 1920-2010)
Pontificating in the Mess

oil on canvas

Artwork date: 2008
Signature details: signed, dated, inscribed with the artist’s name the title and medium on the reverse

Sold for R204,624
Estimated at R120,000 - R180,000

Condition Report


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oil on canvas

Artwork date: 2008
Signature details: signed, dated, inscribed with the artist’s name the title and medium on the reverse


45 x 45 cm


Around the middle of the 1980s, after retiring from his lectureship at the University of the Witwatersrand it all came together for Robert Hodgins in a period of almost febrile intensity. It was in this time frame that he painted three large panels making up The Triple Gates of Hell (1985-6), owned by the Johannesburg Art Gallery, and the weird industrial mutant creature in A Beast Slouches (1986) in the permanent collection of Wits Art Museum, both signature works in his career.The vision that comes through in such works is dark, and uncomfortable to be sure. But so were the times. Lamb Chop was painted in the year following George Orwell’s imaginatively apocryphal 1984; in South Africa the townships were every day in flames. It was the kind of situation to throw up the genius loci manifested in Hodgins’ Beast: a bandaged and bloodied amputee, fused with a prosthetic pylon, now rampant on a highway in the wasteland.Lamb Chop (1985) is more modest in scale, but hardly less explosive in the deconstructive violence of its imagery or the centrifugal urgency of its internal dynamics.Executed in a rough and deliberately primitive style – recalling the simplifications of Modernist Art Brut, but referencing at the same time not only penny dreadful English boys’ comics like Beano and Dandy, but also the cruder scratchings of graffitists on the walls of public toilets – Hodgins’ imagery here is violently imagist to the brink of outright irrationality, and only just coheres in pictorial terms.What one reads as the head of the painting’s figure is, in fact, generated by a series of energetic slashes and stabs of roughly mixed pigment that do more work in generating abstract energies than they do in visually representational terms. Indeed the head is not even given as a solid form, and, in places, the violently red ground shows through.This multi-tasking in Hodgins’ pictorial languages – if one might call it that – is precisely what accounts for the extraordinary expressionistic intensity of Lamb Chop; with its disembodied explosion of crudely drawn femurs that are, at the same time, phalluses; with a background redness that is also a redness burning out from the heart of a raging figure. A redness in a gaping maw – into which a disembodied, blunt forearm shoves, as a morbidly atavistic attribute, the lamb chop of the title.

Ivor Powell

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, Mon, 27th Mar 2017

The Inaugural Cape Auction offed a diverse range of top-quality historic, modern and contemporary works. With a focus on critically engaged art and a curated approach, seasoned and new collectors competed to acquire significant works.

Aspire’s commitment to the growth of the art market saw international records broken in recognition of exiled South African artists. Louis Maqhubela’s Exiled King, a definitive, politically motivated work, sold for R341,040 - three times his previous record, and Albert Adams’ Untitled (Four Figures with Pitchforks), his first appearance at auction, sold for R136,416. Top prices were also achieved for established artists including J.H Pierneef, William Kentridge, and Edoardo Villa, and contemporary artwork fared exceptionally with record prices for David Brown, Steven Cohen, Mohau Modisakeng, Moshekwa Langa, and Mikhael Subotzky.


Friday 24 March 2017 | 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday 25 March 2017 | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 26 March 2017 | 10 am – 4 pm

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