For the last four decades, James has pursued a deeply personal way of making pictures in which small marks of wax-thinned oil paint are applied across an underlying grid, with each painting taking, on average, a year to complete. For almost all this time he has lived and worked in his native Northumbria, on the edge of the Cheviot Hills, on the English side of the border country with Scotland, in a house on a hill looking towards Lindisfarne and the light of the North Sea. Over the years his deeply subtle, time-based paintings have evolved from works of spectral translucency, in which the light of the Northumbrian landscape is channelled into colours so thin that they almost completely disappear, to the tonally weighty marks of more solid colour that characterise more recent paintings.
Hugonin's most recent Fluctuations in Elliptical Form paintings, each at a little over two metres in height, are the largest paintings of James’ career, and the shift in scale matters - making the experience of the work slightly larger than our ability to take it in – creating an expanse of shimmering marks over which the eye moves, and the brain sinks. That passage between eye and brain is where these extraordinary paintings operate like no other, offering a slight sense of hypnosis and an inbuilt gentleness of pace that somehow determines the speed at which we see them.
This new series further explores James' interest in the balance between intention and chance, establishing clear parameters, such as the restriction of making each painting from the same 89 colours, and setting pre-determined rules against the possibility of a mark made at random, its relative height within the overall structure sometimes dertermined by the throw of a dice. These are systems-based paintings that accept, indeed celebrate, the human fallibility that is at their heart. The system is essential, but it is never in complete control, so that the closer you look the more individual, and indeed hand-made, they become.
A selection of Hugonin's work was shown at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea which then toured to BALTIC, Gateshead in 2006. Recent exhibitions include Chance Finds Us (2014), Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art, the touring exhibition Walk On (2013-2014), James Hugonin and Detelf Orlopp (2019), Galerie Hoffmann, Friedberg,The Art of Collaboration (2019), The Heong Gallery, Cambridge and Layered Space: Hatty Buchanan, Rachel Duckhouse, James Hugonin (2020), Leicester Print Workshop, Leicester.
James Hugonin's current solo exhibition at Ingleby reuintes seven of the eight paintings from the series collectively titled Fluctuations in Elliptical Form, begun in 2015 and completed at the end of 2021.