The art of Howard Hodgkin discussed
By: PEERZADA SALMAN
KARACHI: Distinguished art critic Marjorie Husain gave a brief but enlightening talk on the life and work of the renowned British artist Howard Hodgkin at the Canvas Art Gallery on Tuesday.
Ms Husain expressed her satisfaction over the fact that the British Council had made it possible for Pakistani art lovers to view Hodgkin’s work at an exhibition, something that had happened after a long time. She wished such endeavours would continue.
Ms Husain said her talk would be based on a few images of the artist’s artworks to have a better understanding of his art. She established at the outset that Hodgkin was a complex man. He was born in 1932 in London. His artworks were difficult to categorize because, be it realism or abstraction, his style was individualistic. Throughout his career as an artist he had tried to express his life in his work, which largely revolved around the idea that ‘memory is chaotic’.
Ms Husain informed the audience (a select group of art aficionados) that it was in the 1970s that Howard Hodgkin emerged as an ‘influential gay person’ in Britain. He had previously been married and even had children. When he turned 40 he ‘came out’. All of that reflected in his art and today he led a ‘happy gay life’. His art had a pictorial language punctuated by smudges, blobs and lines. He liked to travel a lot and had recently been to India. Quoting an art critic, she said Mr Hodgkin ‘may use colours but he paints with feelings,’ turning a personal experience into a public statement.
After that Ms Husain, with the help of slides, showed images of Hodgkin’s known artworks and spoke briefly about them. The first piece was titled ‘Love Letter’. Ms Husain used the word ‘surreptitious’ to describe the private aspect of the artwork. Then she asked the audience to give their points of view on the exhibit, which they did.
Ms Husain termed the next image ‘bold’ and described the artist’s use of cylinder, cone and sphere as a ‘world muddled by inconsistencies’, a negation of systematic painting.
The third image was titled ‘Venetian Glass.’ She said the glass was used as a metaphor, a piece of something broken or damaged that could still be loved. “Things don’t have to be perfect but you love them,” she remarked.
The next image was ‘Autumn Foliage,’ a widely exhibited piece. She profusely praised the use of colours and the way the artwork was visualized. When an audience member touched on the way Hodgkin’s work was framed, she responded the ‘frame is harmonizing’.
‘Discarded Clothes’ was the penultimate slide shown by Ms Husain about which she said it signified ‘absence’ or ‘the human presence that is not longer there.’ But the artist had kept the identity of the (absent) person concealed.
The last image was titled ‘Passion’. Speaking on the fuzzy, chaotic artwork Ms Husain said Hodgkin was a passionate man and love was part of his art.
An exhibition of Howard Hodgkin’s artworks in collaboration with the British Council at the Canvas Art Gallery, which began on July 6, also concluded on Tuesday.