Traversing from UK to Karachi : Working the world in art
By: Ahtesham Azhar
KARACHI: Canvas Art Gallery has organised a solo painting exhibition of a British artist Howard Hodgkin.
Hodgkin’s is a British painter and print-maker, who has transitioned from controlled and hard-edged, works in his early days, to semi-abstract creations. This is the first time a Pakistani art gallery is hosting Hodgkin’s work, where around 12 of his paintings are on display depicting various colours of life.
Perhaps scorching heat of summer is the reason ‘Mango’ struck as the most prominent among his collection of artwork, since mangoes are the saving grace of our southern hot climate. ‘Sunset’ is one more reminder of the heat, portrayed in the myriad shades of orange, pink and red spread across the hand-coloured Sugar Lift Aquatint measuring 18 by 35 inches.
An abstraction of ‘Still Life in a Restaurant’ is made with oil on wood. It is a collection of blobs, dots and rectangles of different colours, superimposed on a black background. The theme of the painting is difficult to comprehend and has been left open for interpretation as per the spectator’s imagination.
Using another medium, hand-printed lithograph, Hodgkin’s has created ‘The Storm’ on a purple background, with a black centre, perhaps depicting the eye, where the forces of nature are the strongest.
The exhibition, drawn from the holdings of British Could Collection in UK, presents an opportunity to experience key samples of Hodgkin’s print oeuvre alongside the significant oil painting.
The painting and original prints on display are a chaos of abstract forms – splashes, blobs, dots, shapes and clashes of bright, bold colours which now merge, now separate, seemingly without logic or reason. They mingle with each other, about each other. The exhibition even includes the artist’s very first professional print ‘Enter Laughing’ produced in 1964 when he was one of 25 young artists invited to screen-print with master printer Chris Prater of Kelpra Studio, London.
Canvas Director Sameera Raja, in her statement, commented, “When I saw the works, I felt as if they had been made specifically for the locations they were traversing – their journey started from British Council collection in UK, to Bengal Art Lounge in Bangladesh and onwards to Canvas Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan. I felt as the artist was here, among us sitting on the beachfront enjoying the cool breeze from the sea, which is an integral part of Karachi twelve months of the year. The same sea breeze was swaying the ‘Indian Tree’ that I was sitting under drinking chilled coconut water, with a hint of the sea. It was magical, lilting and rhythmic, transporting one to another place, another time, another era- a quieter time where you were at peace with your surroundings, with nature, with yourself.”
Hodgkin’s works are inspiring and even soothing as Sameera mentioned. Another lithograph, ‘Girl at Night’ measuring 30 by 36 inches, is a reminder of his early days, when he used hard-edged curved forms in limited colours. The painting was made in 1966.