Last Paintings. Howard Hodgkin R.I.P.


190718 - HH - Grosvenor Hill

Grosvenor Hill, London W1

I got lost looking for the Gagosian Gallery which is presently showing the Last Paintings of Howard Hodgkin.

Well, not exactly lost. I did manage to find Grosvenor Hill OK, but then proceeded to walk straight past the gallery without a second glance.

Eventually, by retracing my steps, and by process of elimination, it had to be the big modern building on the corner.



190718 - HH - Gagosian outside

Gagosian Gallery, London W1

Unequivocally I love Howard Hodgkin’s paintings. The colours are magnificently rich and bold – out of this world. The gloriously broad brushstrokes are strong, and thoughtful, intent statements. Normally these painting have endearing, quirky titles to go along with them – Are you listening “Untitled No.1”?

190718 - HH - Opposite Gagosian

Opposite the gallery

Also, I like how the paint rambles over the old varied frames, picked up from somewhere – damaged, imperfect, and with batterings from previous lives clearly on display. They are a looking back at some hidden past.

There is one disappointment for me though. This has manifest itself in some of his later works, when less layers of paint have been applied to the wooden panels, and the wood has been allowed to show through.

This is a surprising one, for Hodgkin we know thinks deeply about each and every colour and mark he makes. In which case, why in some of the work in his last years does he paint directly onto untreated plywood? Here the oil in those beautiful, sumptuous colours is allowed to seep into the grain of the wood and leaves such unsightly halos. The brilliance of the colour doesn’t deserve this. The painting “Love Song” from 2015 is an example of this. Everything about the painting is wonderful, delicious even – except for the oil. Why? Oh why?

190718 - HH - Love_Song Dirty_Window

“Love Song” with “Dirty Window” on the right.

We mustn’t let this be a distraction though from the wonders of the other work. To the credit of the Gagosian Gallery, they have laid these out sparingly, with plenty of white wall space around each work, so you can admire them individually without any intrusion from other paintings.

Highlights for me were:

  • “Over to You” – Small, but brilliant in it’s simplicity.
  • “Indoor Games” (I do like his titles…) – Shimmering, fleeting images that seem to move before your eyes.
  • “My Only Sunshine” – I like how the paint has been moved around.
  • “Dirty Window” and “Knitting Pattern” – Once you know the titles, the pictures couldn’t be anything else.
  • “Indian Veg.” – A fun little triptych!
  • “From Memory” – Luxurious, dark coffee coloured one that made me hanker for a Latte immediately after my visit.
  • “Knightsbridge” – I don’t recall seeing such obvious drips of paint as in this painting. Without a doubt, they enhance the perception of the Harrods building with it’s famous red façade and green canopes.
190718 - HH - Harrods

Harrods, Knightsbridge.

Howard Hodgkin’s paintings often took years to complete, and with these being his last, it is obvious that there will be more looking back, introspection and ponderings to be had.

190718 - HH - Gagosian Floor

Gagosian gallery floor.

The journey to the Gagosian gallery seemed like a pilgrimage, and the works of art, so carefully laid out on the white walls, were like a memorial service to the great artist.

Howard Hodgkin R.I.P.



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