Making, A Life: The Peter Hodgson Retrospective, with Peter and friends at Castlefield Gallery is a touring exhibition that celebrates the lifetime work of Cumbrian folk artist Peter Hodgson. Hodgson’s style falls broadly into the category of outsider art as it bucks the traditional convention of a formally trained background with the artist preferring to create out of enjoyment and choosing to move on when he gets bored, rather than working towards a particular narrative or contextual goal. This leads to a level of naivety present in his style that reflects the rustic lifestyle of his remote lake district home. This traditional rural way of living is the core principle to the Making, A Life exhibition, which is present in both his artworks that are filled with acute observations of the natural world and the exhibition’s design, that reflects a rustic domestic setting complete with bed, washstand and desk. The objects themselves are made from a wide variety of materials such as horn, ceramics, glass and fabric, produced using traditional handcraft methods. The exhibition’s focus is very much highlighting the folk art methodology of working – producing something that is rooted within the wider landscape – but for a new audience in the heart of the city.
For the exhibition Hodgson has co-produced objects collaboratively with a wide variety of different contemporary artists and makers who reflect his approach to creating artworks. This has led to a wide variety of pieces within the exhibition, with each work drawing on a different skill set from collaborator to collaborator. For example Laure Prouvost and Hodgson have created various drawings such as ‘Grandfather Covered in Mud’ (2017) whilst furniture and product designer Tom Philipson has worked with the artist to develop a free hanging system that displays most of the show’s artworks. Joe Hartley meanwhile has worked closely with Hodgson, learning and exchanging various crafts with the artist resulting in multiple creations, from leather and horn objects displayed on tables to a hand printed cushion kit that is designed to have no waste fabric that can make multiple products. These artworks are intertwined with Hodgson’s solo output such as his etched glasswork and paintings allowing all of the artists to integrate and achieve a seamless flow of cohesion, which at first glance to the viewer doesn’t appear as a group exhibition.
The decision to incorporate different artists into a retrospective is what makes Making, A Life so intriguing as the show is very much a communal, rather than individual, response as first implied by the exhibition’s title. This collaboration is particularly poignant as the rural crafts and folkway of life exemplified by Hodgson is slowly dying out, but by temporarily incorporating contemporary artists into the conceptual framework the traditional skills are rejuvenated, with the staging of the exhibition at a contemporary gallery space also helping to bring these crafts to a new audience. Crucially Making, A Life allows us to step out of the contemporary art world and return once more to the innate art of making.
Making, A Life: The Peter Hodgson Retrospective, with Peter and friends, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester.
8 December 2017 – 4 February 2018.
The exhibition will then continue to Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art.
Claire Walker is a writer based in Wigan.