Janet Hodgson

Janet Hodgson, who has died aged 56, was a highly regarded artist and teacher who is remembered with much affection and respect by those who had the good fortune to work and collaborate with her and by those who were taught by her. Janet has been a personal friend and colleague for at least 26 years.

Janet made a huge contribution to the Event and Experience Design course almost since it’s inception in 2006, working as an Associate Lecturer on a range of modules across all three stages. She was a part of the development of the campus within the Historic Dockyard from the one programme (EED) to Music joining the School of Arts and Fine Art moving from Canterbury to the eventual formation of the School of Music and Fine Art. In deed when Fine Art first moved to the Historic Dockyard Janet delivered the video component of a module.

Janet trained as a theatre designer at Wimbledon School of Art and in her early career worked with the then radical Welfare State International and the collaborative IOU. This understanding and appreciation of collaborative and team working that was integral to theatre practice became a key element in her own artistic practice.

Her recent work concerned the reenactment/fiction of history, entropy, loss and labour. Janet co-opted the site as the script to inform the production and presentation of multimedia installations.  She used film as a time machine and a vehicle to represent loss and to re-animate the past.

Janet was also member of the art+archaeology group and regularly worked with archeologists and historians. Just as archaeologists dig the earth she dug up figures and histories associated with the site, bringing to life ghosts from the past. She made costume dramas to help us resolve or find a different way to use the past to inhabit the present and locating fragments of alternative models of memory and power relations for the future.

We are fortunate to have one of her few permanent commissions here in Canterbury, “The Pits” in Whitefriars. This was a four-year project where Janet worked alongside Sam Wilkinson, Art Consultant, the Canterbury Archeological Trust, Land Securities and Canterbury City Council to develop a project that made manifest the archeological process and palimpsest of habitation and occupation of a site.

The Pits brought together all the archaeological drawings of holes or pits or absences made during the excavations for the new shopping centre development. The drawings were enlarged to life size and carved in to the paving slabs in the exact geographical location the holes were located. The carvings are of the working drawings of the archaeologists showing as they puzzle over the meanings of their findings. Fixing their temporary activity.

A book was published in 2005 that creatively records and credits everyone involved in the production and delivery of an extremely complex project. Janet always acknowledged she was part of a team.

Her diligence, determination, commitment and stamina in making work happen are legendary. She also brought these attributes to her teaching, collaborations and friendships. Along with a withering critique and brilliant sense of humour!

Throughout her time teaching at Kent, Janet was a Lecturer in the Fine Art Department at the Birmingham School of Art at Birmingham City University. Her commitment to and fascination with teaching was broad and also had a tremendous impact within gallery education. When Tate Liverpool opened Janet was instrumental in developing with the education team innovative strategies for involving artists in the delivery of gallery and exhibition based workshops and activities. On moving to London Janet carried on this work at the newly opened Tate Modern with the newly formed education department exploring further interpretation methodologies with an emphasis on working with young people. This work continued at the Camden Arts Centre and Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Janet fought a heroic battle against cancer for eight years, not allowing any procedures or treatment to stop her working for longer than the absolute minimum amount of time she needed to recover. Although often in pain her stamina and sheer determination got her through until she suffered the recent strokes, (she discharged herself from hospital after the first!) proved to be too much.

Seeing aged 56 written down it appears absurdly and cruelly young. Janet had much more to offer.

Janet has exhibited internationally at Oakville Galleries Canada, Videoholica Bulgaria, Museo Civico di Rovereto Italy, Ural Bienniale Ekaterinburg Russia, Serpentine Gallery, Southbank Centre, Whitworth Art Gallery, the Bluecoat Gallery and Tate Liverpool. She is part of the Art+archeology group with the archeologists at Stonehenge, Kingston University, English Heritage and Canterbury Archeological Trust.

Peter Hatton