Friday, September 12, 2014

Howard Hodgkin, Grief

Howard Hodgkin, Grief, 2002

Howard Hodgkin (b1932) is a prominent British painter and printmaker known for his abstract works.  Many of Hodgkin's works are in the style of this painting, featuring large swaths of color, and many of his paintings contain more recognizable forms and are termed "semi-abstract".  One very interesting aspect of this piece is the blending of color and brushwork.  It is difficult to tell whether the vastly different  blues are due to actual different shades of paint or a difference the thickness of Hodgkin's application.  In fact, he achieves the effect using a combination of both techniques.  One thing this does is give the work a somewhat slapdash appearance so that it feels spontaneous and organic.  The grief of the title feels immediate and real, not contemplated and contrived.  The blue seems to overwhelm the little bit of orange that peeks out, as though it is sweeping into the space and overtaking everything.  One unusual aspect about Grief, and many of Hodgkin's paintings, is that it is painted on wood panel, a practice that went out of style centuries ago.  If you look closely you can see the recessed panel and the beveling and joints of the wood.  Painting on wood instead of canvas gives Hodgkin's work sturdiness, presence, and a more tangible materiality.  For me, this painting is quite engaging and powerful and beautifully expresses its grief.

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