, a recent MFA graduate of
Royal College of Art and Design in London, constructs photographs that create
tension between human and technology, the real and the performative, and the
social and personal. A primary focus of his work is the emotional and devotional
intensity that is present in many modern-day religious movements.
Two recent series have touched on aspects of
religious practice in Texas—“Shrine,” which homes in on the minimalist
constructions that serve as devotional signs displayed outside of many American
churches; and “The Conversation,” consisting of portraits of women who express
religious fervor though glossolalia, or speaking in tongues. For the
latter series, Hawgood placed an advertisement in a Texas newspaper seeking
those able to achieve this altered state, and developed a relationship with a
group of women who he eventually photographed in staged scenes that imitated
their ecstatic reveries. These photographs depict a type of magical realism—by
constructing portraits of real practitioners of this cult activity in anonymous
settings and emotionally exaggerated poses, Hawgood compares his subjects to
saints or other religious figures depicted in many traditions.
Continuing this exploration of spiritual
movements, in 2014’s “Under the Influence,” Hawgood takes as his subject an
evangelical Christian church in London primarily attended by African
immigrants. This series also exemplifies the artist’s interest in technology,
particularly through the use of LED light panels. In still lifes, he restages
moments common within this new devotional tradition, depicting everyday
materials used in their worship—such as anointing water used for exorcisms, a
microphone held by a preacher, or tissues used by those overcome by emotion—and
elevating them in vivid, hyperrealistic images. Corresponding portraits in
noir-ish black and white depict the emotional fervor of the movement’s
practitioners. By setting apart his subjects with exaggerated lighting and
coloration, Hawgood juxtaposes the imagery of religious idolatry with that of
consumer culture, creating glistening symbols of devotion for the modern age.
His photographs cross romantic and objective traditions, isolating and
emphasizing signifiers of human emotion, while employing imagery that questions
the role of religious devotion in contemporary culture.