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VISUAL ARTS: GILL HOBSON – Questions of Light, Time and Space

Light Lines Series No.3 - Gill Hobson

Gill Hobson is an artist who refuses to be complacent. Constantly challenging herself in her artistic practice, at the heart of her work is a ringing consistency of ideas: of time, place, space and light and how to unify them to create work that speaks to our contemporary world and ways of living.
Known best for intricate pieces in glass and metal – imagine the most elaborate peacock’s tail in glass and filigreed metal – that work was concerned with patterns of surface, colour, light and tactility and, for Gill, trying to make sense through making, arrangements and forms. ‘I developed a particular approach and style to using those materials that is about this location, here in Northern Lincolnshire, but I felt I was only speaking about a tiny area of what fascinates and motivates me in being an art-maker and researcher.’
In 2007, Gill embarked on a Masters in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. It marked a change of direction and renewed her commitment to developing her artistic practice. ‘I began to use film and media technology to explore the idea of pattern and place. I wanted to engage more theoretical and physical concerns – it’s all linked to higher education and doing my masters, but that in itself is fundamental to my desire to develop as an artist.’
The opportunity to study gave Gill the space to think, to challenge ways of thinking and doing, and to find a new artistic and theoretical voice. ‘As you get older, things happen and you change as a person. Your work changes and reflects your life experience. So when I went back to college it was with that in mind. I needed to keep being excited about art and its opportunities.’
Now working towards a doctorate, Gill constantly re-fuels this process through research and artistic investigation. The glass and metalwork led to commissions to work in an arts and health context, particularly mental health. ‘I became interested in the way art enhances health environments and how important environment is to wellbeing. It’s about those ideas of people, place and space and the dynamic between those three – that’s what’s been driving my work.’
Once these ideas found their voice, firstly at a major project at Sandfield House in Scunthorpe with a group of people recovering from mental health issues, then in Gill’s own practice, she was determined to take it a stage further. The new work became less about physically constructing and assembling materials; more about using film, sound and photography to articulate ideas about person and place. Gill road tested the films at Grimsby’s Abbey Walk Gallery, then in Dublin with an academic audience.
‘People reacted in different ways. My films aren’t really films in a conventional narrative sense, they’re more like collages. They’re about taking time, pausing and opening up a space for the audience to engage with the work. Because it’s a moving image it evolves in front of you. You lose yourself in that that action and movement, it’s durational.’
‘Their hypnotic quality creates space for pause and contemplation and peace. So they’re not conceived to be hypnotic, but because of their nature, they are. They’re about that pause and the opportunity to join in and lose yourself in the work.’
One elderly viewer was suffering from dementia found the films engendered a sense of peace and calm. She’d been getting angry about her condition, her loss of memory, but she found them peaceful and uplifting.’
Another viewer – this time a Slovakian woman in her early thirties –  found the film 100 Moments reminded her of sleeping  at her grandmother’s house as a child. ‘She’d switch the light out and be on her own in a room with the sodium glow of the streetlights and the gentle movement of the curtains. It was something she hadn’t thought about in twenty-five years. That’s what the films do: produce a space for that to happen; that’s the important thing about them being durational, it opens up a space in time, without interruption, for the experience to take place.’

Moment 44 - from 100 moments by Gill Hobson.
Click the image to link to the film
Gill’s films are hypnotically watchable. Given the acceptance that this is a piece of art worth an investment of time –  the shortest is around three minutes –  keep the sound low and you find yourself drawn into the space where Gill’s ‘conditions of pause’ have a chance of being realised. ‘At the Dublin conference earlier in the summer, the focus was on how we respond to architectural space through light, how light describes the spaces we occupy and how access to natural light is an important aspect of human experience. It was an academic audience and they got into this idea that this was a time to lose yourself in something, but also to engage with something – that change of tempo, of movement, of rhythm, in thought processes. You have to sit still, you have to give them your attention. If you do, you’ll be rewarded.’
The temporal aspect of the work is important, a reflection of the artist’s disconnection with time. ‘Sometimes, I don’t notice time passing. I don’t know what time of day it is when I’m working, when I’m drawn into the pace of contemporary life. This is especially true when you work with technology. The films explore the conflict, the imbalance between the rhythms of natural time and constructed time – the time of deadlines, responses, all the stuff that goes on in our technological lives, we’re still located in natural time, of days and seasons, changes in light and space.’
If anything, Gill’s work has become even more involved with articulating ideas in different registers and with various technologies.  She is aware of the contradiction between the natural and the technological. ‘We live in a technological world and I’m not a luddite. But I still need to work through ideas in the physical world, making and working with my hands.  Co-ordinating ideas and thought processes into a physical object for me is a way of physical thinking. Bringing something into being from nothing gives you time and space to make mistakes and distil information that relates to other forms of art making. The art making process is really important.’
With the new exhibition at Caistor’s 28 Plough Hill Gallery opening on 1 September, Gill is exhibiting several  new studies for larger pieces of work. ‘They’re about architectural space and place and the patterns and rhythms in space, so I’m using a lot of architectural detailing and coloured elements that respond to light. In these pieces I wanted to strip out the decorative elements, the distracting elements, and keep them very clean, very simple, to enable that conversation about time, light, space and duration.’
Having developed a set of ideas, and aesthetics, it is important for Gill to be able to give them physical form.  ‘The pieces respond to space and to the light in that space. So if it’s a dull day, they’ll look one way, if it’s a bright day they’ll look different with the passing of the day, and time of year.’  
Light Lines Series No.2 Detail - Gill Hobson
The new pieces are a response to the earlier work – those complex forms in glass and metal – and the realisation that most of the audience were engaging with the work in a different way to the artist. ‘People looked at the pieces; they didn’t look at the light from the pieces. I always looked at the light, the shadow, the changing dynamic of the light. But for the audience, the piece became the object. They were engaged with the object and no matter how many times I talked about the space, the light, the time of day, unless people acquired a piece and lived with it and realised it for themselves, they never got that sense of how transformational they were.’
‘With these new pieces, I’ve tried to make that more evident by stripping out many of the surface qualities and complexities and a lot of the extraneous elements that were perhaps encouraging people to focus on the piece and getting lost in the detail. I’ve tried to open up a space for people to see them in different way.’
The new work is clearly influence by Gill’s film and photography of architectural space. ‘I’ve spent two years photographing light around my home and having a record of how places change over time, how light falls over surfaces, turning them into something of remarkable and rare beauty in just a moment when the light hits. That’s in this new work, architecture and wallpaper and coloured light, the light through your curtains and the different qualities of light.’
‘One of the things I’m trying to do with this new work is not to put everything into every piece. Each piece is engaging with a particular idea, not all my ideas. Its focus is on one area of interest and seeing how it works out. It wasn’t my intention to do that, but it was developed out of engagement with other mediums, photography and light. For all of us light is a constant, it has a diurnal rhythm, and we can get very out of sync with that truth.’
Gill Hobson’s exhibition of new work is on at 28 Plough Hill Gallery, Caistor, from 1-30 September. For info: or



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