|Rain by Howard Hodgkin. I saw this picture when I visited Tate Britain in December 2013.|
I think a lot of people in England are afraid of pictures which have visible emotions in them. They feel calmer in front of pictures which are placid. They want to be distanced from the feeling, to look out at the storm through a window, or a frame. HOWARD HODGKIN
I have just read Andrew Graham-Dixon's monograph on the contemporary British painter, Howard Hodgkin (Howard Hodgkin, Thames & Hudson, 1994; revised 2001). I really like Hodgkin, whose tentatively suggestive yet boldly vibrant oils — usually painted on rough bare wood — inhabit a region somewhere in-between the figurative and the abstract. This borderline area appeals to me very much: too much representation and you're back in the 19th century; too much abstraction and it can become tedious and lead to a dead-end. Hodgkin gets the balance right. For me he's one of the most interesting artists of the last 50 years, and I rarely fail to be drawn into his paintings and emotionally engaged by them. For this is what he is painting — representational pictures of emotional situations, as he himself stated.
The only way an artist can communicate with the world at large is on the level of feeling. I think the function of the artist is to practise his art to such a level that, like the soul leaving the body, it comes out into the world and affects other people. HOWARD HODGKIN
Many of Hodgkin's paintings have 'abroad' as their theme — France, Venice, Naples, Egypt, India, Morocco. Indeed, all his work is to some extent about travel, about transporting the viewer to 'somewhere else'.
To travel is to see different things and it is also to see things differently. When we travel to a foreign place, our habits and routines are disturbed and our experience of the world takes on a different texture. We notice things that back home we often take for granted or do not give a second thought to: the colours of a landscape, the forms of its vegetation, new sounds and smells; the architecture, how coffee is served, designs on cigarette packets, the way people dress and the sort of litter they leave on the street; the heat or the light, the size of raindrops and the sound they make when they land. Travelling, we study the world more inquisitively and alertly than usual. We look at it as intently as if it were art [my italics]. ANDREW GRAHAM-DIXON