Monash University
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Re-presenting the language of painting through the gift an insight into give and take in contemporary art

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posted on 2017-05-17, 05:47 authored by Hodgeman, Glenys
My art practice has unfolded directly from my previous experience as an organ transplant coordinator. During my dealings within organ donation – often denoted as the ‘gift of life’ – I became interested in the broader notion of gift-giving in social practice, especially the relationships created and the meanings associated within the act of giving and receiving gifts. My work revealed that a gift is not as commonly thought, a gratuitous legacy, but instead, a very complex system of shared obligations and an essential element of social bonding. Initially, due to my health background, my art practice addressed ‘gifts’ given upon death (organs and tissues) from one individual to another by means of medical technology. It then focused on gifts as personal possessions given to family members or bequeathed to the state. Just prior to the commencement of my doctorate studies, I had commenced some research and studio practice within areas such as social connection/exchange, motivation and attachment. Through the research, I have become increasingly interested in how an artist (who also gives and hopes to be given) works within the ‘world of the gift’, what motivates the artist or any innovator to produce work, to research and bequeath objects that ultimately aim to enrich lives and social connections. This PhD commenced by centring on the theme of the gift and aims to use the social and cultural significance of the gift as a guiding thread for the reflection on contemporary art practices. I began this study with a particular interest in investigating the relational status of the work of art by focussing on the complexity of the gestures of giving and receiving, of inviting and hosting. I started with the feeling that the idea of the gift could free the current forms of interpersonal interaction and communication that had tended to become uniform, explicit and repetitive within contemporary artistic practices. My studio practice changed dramatically from sculpture to painting as I discovered the airbrush. The airbrush allowed me to scan over the history of painting, picking styles and reworking them. The airbrush showed me new ways to try and attempt to establish new forms of relationships between my work, the viewer and me. The airbrush allowed me to read with more depth, through reference to the notion of the gift: new bonds, new forms of generosity and seduction, new snares. In the context in which the gaze tends to become consumption and the image stimulus, the exchange among people in a meaningless, repeatable and predictable transaction, it became ever more attractive to think that painting could be represented via the airbrush and the work of art as ‘gift’.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Robert Nelson

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Fine Art


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture