“Representational Pictures of Emotional Situations”: Howard Hodgkin’s Parisian Debut
On the heels of acclaimed solo presentations at Gagosian outposts in Rome (2013) and New York (2011), Gagosian Paris showcases recent paintings by Howard Hodgkin this summer, marking the occasion of the artist’s first solo exhibition in the city. As ever, the 81-year-old English painter’s latest work conveys the “complex relationship between hand, eye, and memory,” in a series of characteristically intimate works on wood panel. With expressive brushwork, these brilliantly hued post-post-impressionistic picture-objects overwhelm their framed edges. The saturated scenes so succinctly described were observed, recorded, reworked, and ultimately produced between London, Normandy, and Bombay—indexing both the geographical trajectory and the focused attention of this still prolific painter during the past two years. As Hodgkin has said: “I am a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations.”
The tripartite situation Hodgkin poses in Indian Veg (2013-14) reveals a light-hearted, yet almost devotional relation to the exotic pattern, form, and pigment of otherwise unremarkable tomatoes, cucumber, chili, and striped gourds resting in an accidental still-life composition before supper. The ripe juiciness and spicier earth tones of the Indian kitchen are conveyed in liquid passages of paint and shadowy, even cumin-colored undertones. By contrast, in The Sea, Goa (2013), the bare, unpainted sky reflects the ruddiness of the shore pressing its burgundy weight onto the clear waters of the Arabian Sea. And the kaleidoscopic daubs of the literal picture window Out of the Window, Bombay (2012-2014) in mud, dull lime, almost fluorescent chartreuse, and bottle green—speckled with carmine and petals of royal blue—form a dense cloud that seems to veil as well as expose the heavy humidity and the mass of smog, traffic, and humanity in the eponymous city. Bold, painterly meditations on representational imagery’s strictures, Hodgkin offers a fresh, painterly vision without plunging into the depths of abstraction.
“Howard Hodgkin” is on view at Gagosian Gallery, Paris, June 13th–Aug. 9th, 2014.