This exhibition at TATE Britain covers six decades of work by British abstract painter Howad Hodgkin, and is the perfect introduction to the respected artist or a chance to see how his style has developed for yourself. Curator Lizzie Carey-Thomas has brought together a selection of 65 works starting from the early portraits of the 1950s and 1960s, moving into the 1970s which saw a move towards using wooden panels and a painted frame before turning to a more gestural style from the 1980s onwards. He describes his work as “representational pictures of emotional situations” — a fitting way to sum up the often very personal titles such as “In Paris With You” and “Small Henry Moore at the Bottom of the Garden”. Through his bold, fluid brush strokes and the often dramatic impact of his sometimes limited colours you cannot help but feel through the sight of the abstract image the emotion within the painting.
When confronted by a Hodgkin piece it is sometimes a puzzle to be explored and solved.
Hodgkin has always worked from memory, and that is perhaps the key to why his style is both figurative and abstract to give an intense feel of emotion and experience when viewing his paintings. Rather than seeking to paint what he saw at a given time, he has painted the way he felt. This means that while they can rarely be perceived as representing a graphical depiction of his subject, they always provide a fittingly engrossing array of colours, bold lines and intricate shapes to draw you in. With “Rain” (pictured above) the dark cloud of the downpour surround the viewer, but the colours of a bright landscape remain in the distance.
By experimenting with scale, Hodgkin has shown he can give the smallest works an epic feel while some of his larger paintings can appear very personal. I found myself starring at both, finding little details to fixate upon and consider their relevance. When confronted by a Hodgkin piece it is sometimes a puzzle to be explored and solved, however, by collecting so many together and placing them in chronological order there is every opportunity to understand more fully when and why he has adopted the techniques he has. Fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed.
The exhibition runs until September 10 at TATE Britain. For more information, including ticket prices, visit http://www.tate.org.uk