Illustrated companion

Howard Hodgkin has extended, in a highly personal and original way, a long tradition of modern painting, going back to Matisse, Bonnard and Vuillard, in which the artist's responses to the world are recreated in heightened and abstracted form, in the structures and colours of the paintings. Hodgkin's paintings relate to specific experiences and the process of painting is an act of recollection in the course of which he seeks equivalents in colour and form for his memories and impressions of the scene. He has described this process to the critic David Sylvester: 'My pictures are finished when the subject comes back. I start out with the subject and naturally I have to remember first of all what it looked like, but it would also perhaps contain a great deal of feeling and sentiment. All of that has got to be somehow transmuted, transformed or made, into a physical object ... when that's finally been done ... and the subject comes back ... then the picture's finished.' The results are complex, highly wrought, sensuously painted and coloured works in which only through hints and allusions does the spectator sense the original physical circumstances. In 'Rain' there is a suggestion of a landscape, perhaps seen through a window, a suggestion of lowering storm clouds with squalls shafting down.

Although often worked on exhaustively Hodgkin's paintings retain great spontaneity of feeling, notable here for example in the vitality of the swirling feathery brushstrokes of the blue form. As with many of his leading contemporaries Hodgkin's work touches centrally on the relationship between the abstract and the expressive functions of the painting.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.284