On Print-Making at 107 Workshop, by Howard Hodgkin

Christie's, 2010

On Print-Making at 107 Workshop

I was first drawn to print-making by the desire to make multiples. My paintings are almost always one-offs. As for who’s influenced me, that’s not for artists to say, I think: that’s for other people. But I’ve always admired the print-making of Bonnard, Patrick Caulfield and Richard Hamilton.

In the seventies I’d made prints in Britain with Kelpra Studios, London and at Aymestrey Water Mill, Herefordshire, but then I worked on prints mostly in New York.

I knew Jack Shirreff from teaching at Corsham [Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, Wiltshire], where he taught print making. And in the eighties I still had a house in Wiltshire.

Jack was around the corner. The first print I made with Jack was in 1986, Green Room. I liked the way Jack did the hand colouring. At the time it was anathema to most printers.

There followed Blue and Red Listening Ear in the same year. That’s when Jack introduced me to the delights of carborundum, its ups and downs, in fact. It’s a hard substance that’s ground down and mixed into a paste. When it’s painted on to the printing plate, it makes a hill, which forces a valley into the surface of the paper.

I’ve used it a lot to give relief to the surface.

In 1990 I began work on After Degas, Indian Tree, Mango and Moroccan Door.

The big prints of palm trees were inspired by posters in the Paris metro.

Put Out More Flags was commissioned by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. It was intended to celebrate their 100th anniversary, as part of the Centennial Print Project, to establish The Artists’ Fund. The title comes from Evelyn Waugh’s novel of the same name, published in 1942. The epigraph shows it’s a quotation from ‘a Chinese sage’: ‘A man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike a musical tone, in order to strengthen his spirit . . . and a drunk military man should order gallons and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendour.’

Because I felt comfortable working with Jack and his team at 107 Workshop I was able to embark on a very ambitious project, Venetian Views. That began as a commission to illustrate Thomas Mann’s novella, Death in Venice. That didn’t work out, but something of the idea of individual pages was carried through with three of the prints: Venice Morning, Afternoon and Evening were composed of 16 page sized ’tiles’ that made up one image.

I’ve always liked being commissioned. Looking back, I see that’s what prompted a lot of the prints: the Metropolitan Museum’s Mezzanine Gallery, under Danny Berger, commissioned Summer and Turkish Delight; In a Public Garden was made to raise funds for the Kunstverein, Dusseldorf, where Raimund Stecker curated a show of my paintings; Books for the Paris Review is self-explanatory; Norwich was intended to raise funds for the Elton John Aids Foundation but that never happened – instead, I made Two’s Company for them; Sea was made to subsidise Thames & Hudson, who published the catalogue raisonne of my prints and Sunset was made as The Whitechapel Gift: proceeds support the Whitechapel Gallery’s education programmes.