This extraordinary painting was clearly inspired by Robert Hodgins’ love of theatre and all things thespian. As Kendell Geers has pointed out:
"It was through art museums, theatres, music, and literature that the young Robert Hodgins found his escape from the London of the Depression-era 1930s, an escape that no doubt still informs his conception of art and his understanding of its possibilities. … A vast library of cultural knowledge and points of reference is filtered through lived experience and deposited onto the white canvas, a battleground of countless possibilities but only one solution."1
The painting’s title is a playful reference to Six Characters in Search of an Author, Italian playwright, Luigi Pirandello's absurdist play, first performed in 1921, in which a theatre rehearsal is invaded by six unfinished characters who have lost their author and demand an end to their story.
With characteristic humour, Hodgins challenges distinctions between life and theatre, between reality and artifice. He also defies all preconceived ideas about art by allowing the process to dictate how the painting evolves. Anchored in a saturated red floor, against a limitless blue backdrop are three actors, bathed in the same yellow light reflecting off a proscenium arch draped in green and pink curtains. Sensational colour contrasts – scarlet, crimson, lemon and lime – reverberate across the surface creating an electric energy and setting the stage for some high drama to unfold.
1. Kendell Geers. ‘Undiscovered at 82’ in Brenda Atkinson et al. (2002) Robert Hodgins, Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers. Page 65.
Brenda Atkinson et al. (2002) Robert Hodgins, Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers. Illustrated in colour on page 102.