Cherry Hood

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Cherry Hood

In Hood’s paintings of adolescent male youth we see the idealised, pre-pubescent boy. He is the coy pre-teen boy; the pouting rebel teen, pictured in a moment of extreme sexual vulnerability and passively endured examination. Hood’s photographic like objectification of the boys segregates them spatially so their presence is somehow greatly exaggerated. Her vision of corporeal adolescence threatens to spill over into our space, unconfined by the two dimensional surface. For Hood however it is the viewer’s angst and psychological projection which fascinates, the voyeur peering at her subjects frozen in an Alice in Wonderland-like isolation.
The strategy of evolving a body of work which operates as a kind of psychic portrait of youth, could misfire placing the artist in the position of benign monster, a trope explored long ago by Balthus and more recently by Robert Gober and Cindy Sherman. Like these artists Hood allows her fantasy and desire (even self-indulgence) to pervert the analogy of representation.
Hood works in the wake of postmodern practice, post photographic, and post painting. As is true of installation art, new hybrids and a heterogeneity of practice are working at this moment. As an artist who makes watercolour paintings, her work falls somewhere between Marlene Dumas’s erotically charged images and Chuck Closes oversized portraits and the now proliferating generation of photographers such as Thomas Ruff. Hood’s is a hybrid practice devoted almost as much to the photograph as to the painterly. Her paintings are unique and completely constructed, their origin is intentionally obscured and they are metamorphosed into completely new subjects.
The artist is obsessed by images, she has amassed a huge collection of photographs both found or taken. These are already her subjects in reserve. For Hood the demise of the subject (the death of the author) is anticipated at the moment the painting is finished. The assertion of the viewer is part of her renegotiation. However while Hood claims the autonomy of her paintings and that her gestural brushstrokes are parodies she unavoidably takes on the guise of the flaneur. For Hood it’s an invocation of desire rendered irresistible in the caress of watercolour.
Hood’s watery surface acts as a kind of stain, bruising her subjects in an arbitrary, even senseless way. Her figures are recuperated from an earlier time, sculpted by the accidental marks of the medium of Sunday painters. The empty background acts as a restraint, preventing any escape. The viewer is allowed uncomfortably close to the subject who is offered up as an open wound. The boys are exposed but their erotogenic zones sealed away from view. Because Hood’s subjects are always people whose identity seems specific, lifted from popular, contemporary culture, her family snapshots, or photography of particular subjects they illicit a frustrated empathy. Not so far from the world of contemporary dysfunction, the artist locates one of her most profound influences in the way young women and girls are so often depicted in popular culture. It is the eroticisation of the vulnerable, starved waif of fashion, the bruised young girl, their status as passive victim or repressed and ambiguous sexuality which nourishes Hood’s project.
There are several striking things about these disturbingly unresolvable images. In addition to the extreme beauty of the boys, which seems to blind the viewer to the verity of what unfolds, one of the most resonant themes is physical and emotional isolation. The gallery space becomes Hood’s dark theatre. The walls vibrate and confine the psychodrama. The viewer is actively drawn to the subject, and wonders at the artist’s relationship which is simultaneously one of objectification and empathy.
Crossing over into the well-worn territory of realism allows the artist to inhabit the world of the apparently knowable. Described by the translucent, watery marks, the boy’s faces are there masquerading as flesh and bone.
Hood’s favourite, the coy blond boy of teen romance fantasy embodies precisely the duality and impossibility at the core of Hood’s investigation. The object of desire is the lure; the construction is the same as that for a female player but not the same for the viewer. Indeed one of Hood’s concerns is the way the female is never the presumed viewer in the mind of the audience. To this project she has invested in a kind of typology of beauty and desire which works in some areas of popular culture where the market covets the female consumer. She has made many paintings of actual individuals, such as famous young male actors and pop stars, whose public persona courts the female viewer. However Hood remains hindered as even these images inevitably fall into the same domain, touched by the presumption of a male viewer.
Hood’s amazing facility for drawing and accuracy give her subjects an underlying verity which remains through the distortions of the wayward coloured rivers which bruise the faces. Her adroit observations and drafting ability are just some of the tools of her trade. Hood is a self-confessed frustrated photographer who upgrades her inadequate talents in this area by using computer manipulation to transform some of her snap shot subjects.
The emotional detachment reflected in their faces may be the result of the way Hood paints from photographs. Thrice removed or completely fictionalised the passivity of these boys may be part of the rewriting of the script of this scene. The same as that complex psychological relationship of photographer and subject.
What is our situation as the viewer of these images?
The same ambiguity quietly works in the photographs of Jock Sturges and Sally Mann. However, it is truly disturbing photography of Nobuyoshi Araki that make us ask the question, who takes pictures of naked young girls tied up and tortured by a sadistic monster? Images like these are a driving force of Hood’s boy project. Although she swaps the gender in the end her works interpret the psychological results of such misuse into a drama on a new stage.
In conclusion these works challenge many of our underlying belief systems. This series of paintings creates a shift away from the constricting and polarizing way we construe gender. Hood rejects the Cartesian theory of mind/body split by confronting the viewer with their own carnal existence, their own palpable feelings. She turns the traditional dichotomies of rationalism and logic versus emotion and pathos on their head by presenting us with our own desire.

Master of Visual Art, Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney
Bachelor of Visual Art, Honours, SCA, The University of Sydney
The National Art School, Fine Art, Painting
Accademia di Belle Arti, Perugia, Italy, Sculpture
St George Technical College, Fine Art
2010 Tim Olsen Gallery, Miniature Paintings Farm Life
2008  Tim Olsen Gallery, Sydney
2006 Now and Then, Schubert Contemporary, Qld
  Lost to the Land, Arc One, Melbourne
2005 After Nature, After the Fact, Greenaway Gallery, Adelaide
  Harold’s End, Varnish Gallery, San Francisco, USA
2004 Harold’s End, Deitch Projects, New York
  Ayesha’s Child, Arc One, Melbourne
2003 Brüder 3, Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver
  Family Matters, Maroondah Regional Gallery, Victoria
2002 Brüder 2, Lehmann, Leskiw + Schedler, Zürich
  Brüder 1, Lehmann, Leskiw + Schedler, Toronto
  Stranger than Fiction, Mori Gallery, Sydney
2001 Interface, Mori Gallery, Sydney
2009 Archibald Prize, Finalist, Art Gallery NSW, The Domain, Sydney
2007 The Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of NSW, finalist
  Hutchins Work on Paper Prize, (peoples choice award)
  Whyalla Art Prize, (peoples choice award)
  The Portia Geach Memorial Award, SH Ervin Gallery, (finalist)
2006 The Melbourne Art Fair, Arc One, Melbourne
  The Toronto Art Fair, Lehmann, Leskiw + Schedler, Toronto
2004 Dobell Drawing Prize, Art Gallery of NSW (finalist)
  Doug Moran Portrait Prize, NSW State Library Gallery (finalist)
  The Summer Show, Arc One, Melbourne
2003 Art Cologne, Minor representation at Schedler, Lehmann, Leskiw
  A Year In Art, S.H Ervin Gallery, Sydney
  Kedumba Drawing Award, Kedumba Gallery (winner)
  Arthur Guy Memorial Award, Bendigo (finalist)
  Portrayal, Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver
  Sydney Art on Paper Fair, Akky van Ogtrop Fine Art, Sydney
  Scrubbers Revenge, Penrith Regional Gallery, Penrith
  More Real Than Life, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne
  Scratch The Surface, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Canberra
  Ned Kelly, SH Ervin Gallery
2002 The Archibald Portrait Prize, The Art Gallery of NSW (winner)
  The Archibald Portrait Prize, Regional Touring Exhibition
  The Doug Moran Portrait Prize (finalist) and Regional Touring Exhibition
  Heimlich unHeimlich, curator, Juliana Engberg, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne
  The Portia Geach Memorial Award SH Ervin Gallery, (Peoples Choice)
  Contemporary Portraiture The National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

ArtBank, Sydney

Penrith Regional Gallery

Maroondah Regional Gallery

Muswellbrook Regional Gallery

Goulburn Regional Gallery

Hazelhurst Gallery

  • Cherry Hood, Trent

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