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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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Howard Hodgkin
B. 1932
YOU AND ME
titled on the reverse
oil on panel, in painted artist's frame
43.2 by 59.1 cm. 17 by 23 1/4 in.
Executed in 1980-82.
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Provenance

M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Private Collection, United States
M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Howard Hodgkin: Paintings, November - December 1982, no. 15

Literature

Marla Price, Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, New York 1995, p. 178, no. 177, illustrated in colour
Marla Price, Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, London 2006, p. 194, no. 177, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

A vibrant configuration of rich greens, yellows and reds partially obscured by the dark shadowy contour of the painted frame, You & Me is one of Howard Hodgkin’s intimate works from the early 1980s.  As early as the 1970s, the place of the encounter, and not simply the character of the sitters, began to assume a growing importance in Hodgkin’s oeuvre. His small, intense, richly coloured and highly wrought ‘portraits’ of social encounters became stage sets for the depiction of his unique abstract vocabulary. Hodgkin’s vocabulary teeters between figuration and abstraction and hence his figures become absorbed into dynamic and less rigid gestural fields of painterly activity. Andrew Graham Dixon reveals the key to Hodgkin’s method: “He has to create a pictorial language capable of balancing on that particular knife edge, a language that would enable him to create pictures that declare their dual status both as painted memories and as images of the imperfect nature of all remembrance” (Andrew Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London 2001, p. 61). Like Hodgkin’s earlier portraits, You & Me is a painting that records a given moment not by describing, but by creating a visual equivalent for a very particular landscape or scene.

Hodgkin is a master at reducing his subjects to indexical marks – broad bands, short columnar forms, dots, arcs and simple squiggles – thus subsuming them into the flow of the painting process. As Twombly addressed the challenge of making large canvases intimate, Hodgkin takes intimately scaled objects and expands their potential for spatial and psychological intensity. The present work perfectly epitomises this attempt to dismantle form, with small animated strokes of red paint and thicker bands of yellow and green. In his own words: “I am a representational painter but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations” (Howard Hodgkin cited in: Marla Price, Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings Catalogue Raisonne, London 2006, p. 14). Memory and metaphor are Hodgkin’s preferred terrain, drawing upon mental rather than perceptual images of the world. The recognisability of the subjects in You & Me created from a patchwork of rich colours and layered brushstrokes enhance the fictional aura of the painting.

The bold use of colour is heightened by the frame which is both a literal entity and pictorial device allowing the figures in You & Me to breach their confines. This framing technique permits Hodgkin to manipulate the vivid colours, which are the driving force of his evocative, poetic visions. He has often mentioned that the frames are protectors of his paintings: “The more evanescent the emotions I want to convey, the thicker the panel, the heavier the framing, the more elaborate the border, so that this delicate thing will remain protected and intact” (Howard Hodgkin cited in: Ibid., p. 33). The continuous interplay between the frame, the tactile motifs and the orchestrated colours create this tension between illusionistic space, surface materiality and the artist’s own memories.

Hodgkin's sumptuous, colour-drenched visions totter between the realms of figuration and abstraction to arouse sensations and memories through a unique idiom that is at once contemporary yet deeply connected with the modern tradition of painting.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London