Important South African and International Art

Live Auction, 7 November 2016

Evening Sale

Sold for

ZAR 511 560
Lot 281
  • Robert Hodgins; A Distant Connection

Lot Estimate
ZAR 450 000 - 550 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 511 560

About this Item

South African 1920-2010
A Distant Connection

signed, dated 1994 and inscribed with the title on the reverse

oil on canvas
121,5 by 91cm excluding frame


In its form and content, this powerful Hodgins painting seems to relate to The Scene of the Crime, a work he made in the same year, 1994, and which forms part of the Constitutional Court Art Collection. The year marked South Africa's first democratic election, a time of great hope for the future, but also a time of reflection on the violations of the past. Both paintings depict scenes suggestive of the latter. But whatever they imply, the depiction feels more filmic than a real-life situation. This is as much to do with this expressive form of painting as iconography.

Both scenes show a dark interior. We are unsure if they are actually connected in time and place or the sequence of the scenes. Does the landing or hallway of A Distant Connection lead to the corridor of The Scene of the Crime, or the other way around? Does the hanging lamp in both works suggest the interrogation bulb motif present in many Hodgins paintings, or does it comment on a specific moment of suffering?

In A Distant Connection, the dimly lit interior is punctuated by four yellow shapes indicating light sources. Red forms collect in the centre of the composition depicting clothes hanging on the wall. The intense colour is echoed in the torn seat of the overturned chair occupying the foreground. The small figure leaning over the banister connects visually and seemingly narratively with the large figure at the bottom of the staircase, both marked by painted lines, orange and maroon respectively, that attach to their bodies. The proximity of the large figure to the overturned chair suggests an ominous scene, perhaps a memory. But, for all the forensic form of diagrammatic line and composition, the precise narrative is not forthcoming. In true Hodgins style he favours painterly expressiveness that keeps us guessing.

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