Eighty-three

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Writing

1991-3 by Howard Hodgkin
Courtesy of Anthony d’Offay Gallery

With his title Writing Hodgkin immediately invites us to look at his painting in terms of the layers he builds; to write you must mark upon something, it must be visible, an added layer, and Hodgkin makes this more than evident with his luminous blue. Bright and intense, it is immediately striking and we must look past it, through it, to see the array of colours that make up the background; like words, the blue is so dominating that our eyes cannot focus on both at once. Adding to this deceptive layering is the fact that the frame of the picture is painted too; barely visible it is completely encompassed into the composition, treated as if it was not even there. The blue establishes its dominance with the large spreading shape in the middle-right; fanning outwards, its mass ensures no intrusion from any part of the background. Had the blue not had this focus, and only been articulated through multiplying brush swabs, the effect would not have been as powerful, providing only an Impressionist-like scattering rather than this domineering foreground. Perhaps this is to reflect the nature of writing itself, that no matter what is said the written statement is ultimately a dominating one; one cannot ignore words once they are written and Hodgkin makes this point simply, by writing in paint what cannot be ignored.

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