Howard Hodgkin

Undergrowth, 1998–2003

Oil on wood
200 × 242.9 cm

Howard Hodgkin (1932–2017) is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest painters and has occupied a central place in contemporary art for over half a century.

The work of Hodgkin linked gesture and color by pushing the boundaries of painting, often literally – through strokes that went beyond the edges of the frame. Embracing time as a compositional element, his work is a testament to his immersion in the intangibility of feelings, and his seemingly spontaneous, dramatic brushstrokes provide an exploration into the expressive nature of paint itself.

“I am a representational painter but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations.”
– Howard Hodgkin

The ‘Undergrowth’ comes at a time when Hodgkin created the largest works in his significant body of art, but he has also introduced a new and darker note to his subjects. The work features a vibrant composition of gestural brushstrokes and richly layered textures, depicting a tangled forest undergrowth. The colors blend and bleed into each other, creating a sense of movement and dynamism. It is dominated by deep greens and black, surrounded by a contrasting hand-painted frame.

As the former director of the Tate Nicholas Serota has observed, this has the effect that in Hodgkin’s works ‘the frame is not something to be added as protection or separation once the painting has been completed’ but is an integral component of the work. (Nicholas Serota, ‘Introduction’ for the artist’s solo exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art 2006, p.13).

Howard Hodgkin: Paintings, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, January 10–February 17, 2004

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Howard Hodgkin