South African and International Art

Drawings, Watercolours, Paintings, Prints and Sculpture

Johannesburg  |  4:00pm Mon 12 Nov 2012


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Lot 214

South African 1920-2010
Three Golem Figures
signed, dated 2002, inscribed twice with the artist's name and title, inscribed with the medium and further inscribed 'Begun Sunday 3 March 2002' on the reverse
oil and graphite on canvas
90 by 120cm excluding frame

Sold for R 800 000
Including Buyer's Premium and VAT R 891 200

Estimate R 400 000 - 500 000

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"There are paintings that stem from memory and from a sombre look at the human condition. Paintings about the construction and confusion of contemporary urban life, but also paintings about the pleasures of being alive, pleasures that crowd in upon the pessimism everywhere - that crowd in and refuse to be ignored". 1   Robert Hodgins

A self-confessed people watcher, Robert Hodgins’ canvasses form a visual dialogue between subject and viewer. Economy of detail is only eclipsed by a confident application of colour and a wicked sense of humour when it came to the titling of a given work: “My paintings find the words, the words don’t find my paintings.” 2 

Three Golems, originating in Jewish folklore, explores the idea of amorphous entities devoid of speech, designed to serve man under controlled conditions but who turn on their makers under others. Formed from mud, a golem could be animated by writing the word emet (the Hebrew word for truth) on its forehead. It could then be deactivated by changing the inscription to met (death).3 However, some mystics believe the creation of a golem has symbolic meaning only, like a spiritual experience following a religious rite.4 The three figures in this work are, by the use of the word golem, only shadows of real men created by God. Hodgins’ decision to include three golems becomes of interest given the religious association of a Trinity or three divine persons. Through the act of painting Hodgins elevates the three golems to separable subjects; each individually rendered they are one and the same and yet each is different.

2 Van Wyk, Retief, The Ceramic art of Robert Hodgins, Bell-Roberts Publishing, Cape Town, 2008, page 12.

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