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In The Frame: King's Lynn
By Will Teather 
Green Pebble June/July 2010 issue



Kate Hodges/Elgie

An artist who takes an unusual approach to finding inspiration from her surroundings is Kate Hodges. For her artworks in the exhibition she collected pieces of wood which she came across and, by singeing marks onto them, created intricate drawings and patterns. This process is both sympathetic to the materials and tranformative of them, with her mark-making taking inspiration from the grain of the wood to create compositions that seem to reference both aboriginal art and art deco.

She describes her art as very ‘process led’, which seems the easiest way of linking her extremely diverse practice. On the previous occasions that I have encountered Hodges' work it has been in the form of conceptual installations and performances. Much as her wood pieces respond to the natural form, her more avant-garde explorations tend to be ‘site-responsive’ – created to enter into a dialogue with the environment in which the piece is situated, be it a car park or a warehouse. 

Hodges herself seems slightly uncomfortable with the breadth of her practice, feeling that the craft element in the wood patterns is almost a guilty pleasure, akin to her secret liking of artists such as Andy Goldsworthy. In fact, she entered the artworks into the Eastern Open under the pseudonym of Kate Elgie. She tells me that craft and a formal consideration of beauty doesn't normally enter into her work; her priority is more to help people see the world around them in a different way. This is just before admitting that she is knitting a jumper whilst on the other end of the phone: something she would never describe as art. I ask her why she wouldn't consider using knitting in her work. After all, Tracey Emin makes quilts and, whilst the likes of Jeff Koons might not make their own artworks, Koons certainly makes sure that his assistants keep up high production values. 

Nonetheless, I take Hodges' point that artists often end up sitting in a certain camp: one that is either more craft-driven, ideas-driven, seeks beauty, or tries to challenge our perceptions. She mentions a liking for James Turrell, a light artist whose practice provides a good example of both thought-provoking and beautiful contemporary art which often has an emotional effect on viewers. 

If there really is a decision to be made about which road she should go down, she doesn't need to make it just yet. She is still early in her career as an artist, having initially used it as a form of self-therapy after a stressful period working with the ambulance service. Maybe the decision to create a pseudonym could work to her advantage, giving her the freedom to explore both strands of her talent independently, without fear of persecution from the art police.

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