EXHIBITIONS: “Howard Hodgkin: After All” – Alan Cristea Gallery, Pall Mall, London
Whenever there is an opportunity I try to see Harold Hodgkin’s work. He is one of the painters who continues to intrigue and excite me and it was an experience to be able to see this latest exhibition of his prints. I have read several books about Hodgkin and listened to interviews by Andrew Graham-Dixon on his work.
‘After All’ consists of 22 prints, eighteen of them in small format and the remaining four much larger. Typical of Hodgkin, the images seem spare with simple gestural brushstrokes. Yet the gestures are sure, direct, and energetic and I always have the impression that the marks are laid on the paper after deep thought and intuitive purpose. This results in spontaneity and lightness. The subject matter too of this series evoke feelings of lightness and activity as they include works entitled “Grape Harvest’, ‘Fresh Fruit Crumble’, ‘Ice Cream’ and ‘Coast’, hinting at memories of seaside excursions.
For me Hodgkin demands contemplation. So while it is always enjoyable to walk around and look at the images, it is only when you stop in front of one of those images and allow time for the painting to speak that you really connect. This quality of Hodgkin’s work was further emphasised for me on this particular day because on the journey home I stopped off at another London Gallery, the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery in The Cut, London. There was an exhibition of the work of Peter Graham R.O.I. Some years ago I had seen his work and loved the colours, the energy and immediacy of the paintings and so I wanted to revisit this artist.
I found to my surprise that I could only stay for a short time. The impact of the images was too much. While Hodgkin’s work communicates through stillness, Graham’s images shout for attention. I still enjoyed the visual play of colour and shapes in the work but I couldn’t hear anything there was too much noise in the paintings. Nor was I as the viewer able to bring anything to the work. As I continued the journey home, it was the quiet power of Hodgkin’s images which remained with me. Julian Barnes relates in his essay on Howard Hodgkin, a writer friend described her reaction to a Howard Hodgkin exhibition: “ They just come off the wall at me and said, ‘This is what art is meant to be.’ “
I have spent the majority of my time over the last few months researching rather than drawing. The focus of the research has been on Abstraction (see posts on Books) The Hodgkin exhibition continued to add to my understanding of what I’m drawn to in Abstract art and I will be exploring this further. This exhibition was very important in this process.