SENSUAL AWAKENINGS: The new generation of young women artists exploring gender and sexuality

Maggie Kuzan, Contemporary Lux Magazine, March 8, 2018

Planes of vermillion slathered thick across the canvas collide to merge into recognisable forms. At the centre they latch onto one another, jigsaw pieces nestling into their fitting grooves. Fat brushstrokes cruise parallel to limbs, mimicking the inclines and elevations of human flesh in movement. The arching leg, the protruding bulge of the knee, the taut, tensing calf muscle divulges the scene before us.


Alba Hodsoll (b. 1990, UK) washes scant outlines of human forms in a muted palette of crimson and dark blue to reveal scenes of copulation. The severe close-up and cropping of ‘Untitled’ (2016) obstructs our personal space – we are thrust into a heady cluster of limbs reeling and undulating. The skilful engineering of foreshortening and perspective smothers any whisper of intimacy between two people, instead cramping and choking us spectators into the frame. We become active players in Hodsoll’s narrative, evocative of Joan Semmel’s self-reflexive erotic studies. Semmel’s oeuvre – nude portraits of herself, and in particular, her early work, which often included a male partner – is discernable for its teetering angles and scarcity of faces. This dearth of the primary facet of human expression gnarls the distance between the figurative subject of the painting and the viewer. We become entangled within Semmel’s vignettes, drenched in radioactive hues and vertigo inducing slants.


There are nods to Semmel’s influential style in Hodsoll’s work; she avoids depicting human faces, fixating on bodies as dynamic and swelling ebbs and flows. This method of reading bodies as mutable and volatile structures fractures the artifice of the female body as an anchored ideal, to be gawped at and scrutinised. In another study (Untitled, 2017) blue blots puff through the beech linen canvas like hot candle wax being born in a pool of water. Strange blotches, knobbly lumps and bulges swerve and swim to meet each other in grooves, a merging of bodies. Although one’s eye might be drawn to the phallic blemish at the crux of the painting, Hodsoll muffles any distinct gendered anatomy, blurring the binary. Her upcoming solo exhibition ‘SEED’ at The Cob Gallery in London (15th March – 7th April 2018) promises to tease the abstraction of erotic imagery even further.