Greg McGee is Art Advisor for international poetry magazine Dream Catcher
After halcyon formative years in Australia and New Zealand, I returned in late 1981 with my family to the more urban pleasures of Middlesbrough, a post industrial town in North East England. The culture shock was not without its trials. In my yearning for hot colours and crackling scents, some half remembered, some imagined, I became, like many young people in the mid-80s, an avid consumer of Americana. The exotic otherness of urban culture, underground music and life affirming pop rock anthems, imported film and addictive TV slowly inculcated a transatlantic yearning for the American Dream.
This is not to say the UK was a cultural no-man's land. The late seventies and early eighties had their own colours and stories. Counter Culture, Early Skinheads, Ska, and Two-Tone provided fertile ground for the imagination, but it was Americana and its long trek across the Atlantic that often blazed brightest. It was amplified, exaggerated, mythical.
As visual art became my litmus test of a culture's fecundity, I saw how the visual language of a place becomes fetishised and slightly distorted. That aching for the American lifestyle continues in contemporary culture, and it is no better made manifest than in the hyperreal art of UK painter Imogen Hawgood. Imogen's art explores the icons of Americana and the idea of ‘the road’ as a transitional and symbolic landscape. After spending time in LA, sketching, photographing, immersing, she is now lasering in on the American Dream, with its mythic allure of the West. Her recent work has included American landscapes and roadside imagery, and experimentation with light leaks and colour effects. The resulting collection is instantly cinematic. Composition and lighting engenders a filmic, iconic style, reminiscent of a modern Hopper. Her experimentation with photography leads to painterly exposure flaring around the edges of her canvases, and random objects found by the roadside inspire a visual acuity akin to some of the great Photorealists of our time. The propulsive night culture of LA, Sunset Strip, Las Vegas, and the dusty unwinding of the American highway, are sumptuously depicted in her 'Cinerama Dome', 'The Broadway Hollywood', 'Las Vegas Double Exposure', and 'Freeway Underpass' with an exactitude that has enamoured her to international collectors.
Imogen Hawgood's art in Dream Catcher magazine
She says, “The freedom of the American open road has been a powerful image for generations on both sides of the Atlantic, representing for some self-discovery, for others a path to redemption. Through the use of my own photography, as well as found footage, the images I create juxtapose an air of nostalgia with contemporary viewpoints. I often use the interior of a car as a frame through which to view a passing landscape and try to capture a sense of movement through my composition and use of colour and lighting.”
Imogen has exhibited at the New Light exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery and at the Holt Festival in Norfolk. In 2020 she was shortlisted for the ING Discerning Eye, John Hurt and Sworders art prizes, and in 2021 she was ‘highly commended’ in the watercolour category at the Broadway Arts Festival competition. Most recently, Imogen has exhibited artwork at the Vestige Concept Gallery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, According to McGee gallery in York, and Society of Women Artists Annual Exhibition, Mall Galleries London.