1st January 2010


The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford exhibits 20 of Hodgkin’s Indian paintings and drawings of elephants, that are on loan. Meanwhile Modern Art Oxford shows 25 of his paintings 2001-2010 in an exhibition called ‘Time and Place’, curated by the director, Michael Stanley. The last painting, Blood, arrives too late to be included in the catalogue.

The same building, then called Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, housed Hodgkin’s first retrospective of 45 paintings in 1976, curated by Nicholas Serota. The exhibition tours to the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, the Netherlands, which is directed by Hendrik Driessen. He is also responsible for the installation.

Stefan Kuiper writes in Vrij Nederland, 28 August 2010: ‘In the past, until about ten years ago, [Hodgkin] worked on the basis of personal memories, and his paintings bore titles such as In Paris With You (1995-1996) and In Raimund Stecker’s Garden (1998-2001). His art was private, confessional; as though all sorts of intimate acknowledgements could be found among the enigmatic forms. Those paintings were highly personal theaters (the broad, paint-spattered frame resembling the entrance to a stage) in which the painter brought his memories to life. Paint had become Proust’s madeleine. Hodgkin’s new work is different, less private. That can be discerned in the titles—Lawn, Big Lawn, Sky—but also in the form. The small and intimate panel Leaf (2007-2009), for instance, involves no more than a single sharply curled sweep of thinned green against a background of plain wood. And Mud (2002) is a unprepared plank covered with wide strokes of green and grey. Though it consists of practically nothing, somehow this little picture effortlessly gives rise to associations with landscapes and shoals, or an approaching storm. These paintings are more suggestive than Hodgkin’s earlier work, less insistent, and consequently better. The difference resembles that between people who give energy—Hodgkin fondly refers to his paintings as a cast of characters—and those who take it. Between inhaling and exhaling. The question is whether the painter himself sees it that way. Hodgkin nods eagerly when I present him with my interpretation. That new approach to the work, he says, has to do with added confidence (“I used to be afraid of boring the viewer”) but also with a new method. “Painting, to me, meant plodding away endlessly. I spent entire days turning things around and around in a painting. Plenty of pentimenti were carried out before I felt satisfied with the work. At a certain point I had had enough of that. It became too strenuous, especially with my difficult knees. Nowadays I work differently, with circumspection, more like a chess player. I’d say that about ninety percent of the time in my studio is spent on a contemplation and analysis of the work, and only ten percent on actually painting it. So when I sit there staring at the wall, I’m in fact hard at work.” His eyes twinkle mischievously: “Explaining that to my assistants took quite some time.”‘

The exhibitions ‘Seven New Paintings’ goes up at Gagosian Gallery, Davies Street, London. The windows are covered in gauze and on the walls painted in soft grey hang Sky, Leaf, In the Train, Embrace, Rain on the Pane, Folk Art and Green Thoughts. Lawn hangs in the inner room.