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James Hugonin

James Hugonin & Howard Skempton

7 September 2007 - 15 September 2007

The sixth in our series of 26 exhibition pairings presented a new painting by James Hugonin alongside a new piece of music by the celebrated composer Howard Skempton.

Michael Harrison, director of Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, has observed that Hugonin’s abstract paintings “ask us to slow down, and to look, and to settle as we would to listen to a piece of music, allowing time to take effect, to acknowledge that, for all their quietness and stillness, our relationship to them is one of continual change”. His musical analogy for Hugonin’s work is fitting, but it can be taken further still, especially with regard to Skempton.

Both men occupy quite singular positions within their respective worlds: both have created bodies of work that are undeflected by the trends around them and both have refined their voice to use a language that is essentially stripped back and simple, yet they do so to create an art of quiet and engaging complexity. “Elegant, civilized and with a touch of anarchy” was the BBC Music Magazine’s recent description of Skempton’s music: words that could equally apply to Hugonin’s art..

This is a pairing of rarities: a new Hugonin painting is itself an exceptional event: they leave his studio at a rate of less than one a year and, as its title hints, Untitled (XV) is just the fifteenth work to emerge in a series begun almost 20 years ago. It was paired here with the manuscript of Pavilion, Skempton’s composition for piano, viola and clarinet written in response to Hugonin’s work. Pavilion was performed live in the gallery at the close of the exhibition at 5pm on Saturday 15th September, an event followed by a public conversation between artist and composer and a short piano recital by Skempton himself – another singular and rare event.

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