Thursday, 6 June 2013

Patrick Caulfield and Gary Hume

A couple of nights ago I went to the opening of Patrick Caulfield at Tate Britain, which includes an exhiition of Gary Hume's work. It was like a strange sort of joint retrospective, with two separate exhibitions for each artist connected by their adjacent entrances in the main hall. This works nicely since you could see each artist in isolation and get an undiluted sense of what they are about. The format also allows you to form your own organic connections rather than feel like you are a good (or bad) student of an instructive curator

I didn't know Hume's work particularly well so this gave me a great introduction. He works primarily in gloss paint on aluminium, giving his paintings and oil slick quality that makes you want to touch them, if only to see if they are liquid or not.

Among his work are some real iconic images such as Michael Jackson's nostrils superimposed on a finger portrait of Kate Moss but my favourites were somewhat subtler such as his Tony Bevan-like barn doors or his strange white, brass snowman. For me the only links between the two artists are their use of a vibrant, often clashing palate, their harsh outlines, and their tactile quality. But despite my inability to form intelligent connections beyond that, it was nice to go and see the work of 2 pretty different artists. 

I have long been a fan of Patrick Caulfield's bold black lines and nostalgic 70s and 80s references (e.g. immaculately painted retro wallpaper or a gloriously pink lobster). It was wonderful to see so many of the larger works united and arranged chronologically. 
We could trace the development of ideas from a fascination with architectural geometry to and increased use of tromp l'oeil and collage, as well as textured surfaces that recreate those infamous 80s DIY textured wallpaper jobs. As you go through the rooms, the paintings become increasingly tactile, taking the effect away from the Hopper-esque melancholic, empty interiors and towards an evocative nostalgia. 

The mocking, knowingly transient references in these later pictures reveal, I think, an acerbic sense of humour that is manifested in the grave stone Caulfield designed for himself in Highgate Cemetery (East Side). In each gradation of his stair-like design, are the letters D E A D, making it perhaps the most timeless of his works, articulating that ever present, universal truth. 

Book here:
5 June – 1 September 2013
Adult £14.50 (without donation £13.10) 
Concession £12.50 (without donation £11.30)