Over the past 30 years James Hugonin has emerged as one of the most single minded and determined painters of his generation. He works very slowly, completing on average just one painting a year, and always following a structure of small marks of colour applied across an underlying grid. These are deeply subtle paintings with an understated clarity that sit somewhere between the light-filled pointillism of Seurat and the restrained poise of Agnes Martin, whose painting preceded James’s in the current sequence. Each of James’s paintings begin with a notebook, plotting sequences that will play out in the coming months, almost like a musical score. The analogy to music is apposite, as Martin commented of her own approach: “It's not about facts, it's about feelings. It's about remembering feelings and happiness. A definition of art is that it makes concrete our most subtle emotions. I think the highest form of art is music. It's the most abstract of all art expression”.
Their work shares many qualities including a kind of interior musicality and perhaps most unmistakably a balance between precision and control on one side, and the fragility of a very human touch on the other.
We have worked with James for nearly 20 years, having first come across his work in ‘A Quality of Light’ a wonderful exhibition at Tate St Ives and across West Cornwall in the summer of 1997, curated in part by our mutual friend the artist Garry Fabian Miller. Since then we have made exhibitions and books to mark every major series of James’s work, celebrating his 6oth birthday with closure of an 18 painting sequence in October 2010 and his 65th birthday with the ‘Binary Rhythm’ paintings in 2015.