Gary Hume’s Greatest Hits

Edition Review

  • Gary Hume, London Fields (2012), 134 x 97 cm.
    Young Turk (2012), 134 x 92.5 cm.
    Elsewhere (2012), 119.5 x 92.5 cm.
    Paradise Printing Four (2012), 128 x 93 cm.
    Magda (2012), 134 x 93 cm.
    Paradise Five (2012), 128 x 93 cm

  • Six linocuts. Editions of 56 each. Printed by Peter Kosowicz at Thumbprint Editions Ltd., London, published by The Paragon Press, London. $8000 each.

Perhaps it was the unseasonably bitter October weather, but any viewer of Gary Hume’s Paradise Printing Four prints at this year’s Multiplied Fair in London, could easily have felt transported to another clime. These six linocuts evoke all the sultry heat of the South Pacific with their vibrant, Gauguin-esque palette of ochre, rose-pink and bruised green. The compositions, in particular Magda and Elsewhere, also summon that artist’s paintings and prints of French Polynesia and its female inhabitants. Gauguin worked primarily with woodcut; a close relative of the linocut technique that Hume employs here and with which he first experimented in 2005 at Charles Booth-Clibborn’s suggestion.1

Gary Hume, Paradise Five (2012).

Gary Hume, Paradise Five (2012).

Through linocut Hume seeks to reproduce the ‘flattened’ effect of his paintings which has become one of his stylistic hallmarks. Loose homage appears to be a particular theme of Hume’s work. His 1995 painting, After Vermeer, was a re-imagining of the Dutch master’s canonical Head of a Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665 (The Hague, Mauritshuis) as it might have been realised were the artist working in the 21st-century; the 2006 linocuts in the series Here’s flowers gave every appearance, with their fleshy sensuality, of taking inspiration from Georgia O’Keefe; and then there is the clear debt to Pop Art that runs throughout Hume’s work, which has been noted by other writers. This is visible here again in London Fields and Young Turk both of which point towards images sourced from newspapers and magazines, a common practise of Hume’s and one of course frequently exploited by Warhol.

This makes the title of the artist’s recent retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, “Flashback,” all the more apt, for not only does Hume’s work offer glimpses of some of the most significant figures in Western art but Hume also continually revisits and references elements of his own work. The viewer might recognise the disembodied female torso in this edition from related figures in Hume’s earlier work. Similarly, the striking mahogany and kingfisher-blue bird’s heads, cocked just so, reprise Big Bird (2009) and Berlin Bird (2010). Indeed, the artist has described the subject of his work as a distillation of ‘flora, fauna and portraiture.’2 Sex, the calling card of almost every seasoned YBA, is clearly also integral to his practise, as the artist readily agrees: ‘Sex is absolutely important in my work.’3

All of these elements have forged what is a highly coherent and distinctive style for Gary Hume, an elegantly slick production that works as well in print as it does in other media, and has accordingly been applied to everything from sculpture to Christmas cards.

Through repetition and reprisal Hume himself has become the greatest chronicler of his corpus and in this context it follows that Paradise Printing Four reads as a collection of ‘Greatest Hits.’

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  1. See Florian-Oliver Simm and Etienne Lullin (ed.s), Contemporary Art in Print: The Publications of Charles Booth-Clibborn and His Imprint the Paragon Press 2001-2006. London: The Paragon Press, 2006. []
  2. Ibid, 316. []
  3. “Gary Hume in Conversation with Caroline Douglas” in Gary Hume: Flashback. London: Hayward Publishing, 2012: 19-29, 23. []