Hume’s Portraits is a series of ten screenprints commissioned by Charles Booth-Clibborn and published by him under his imprint, The Paragon Press, London. They were proofed and printed at Coriander Studio, London in an edition of thirty-six plus ten artist’s proofs. Tate’s copy is number eighteen in the edition. Each print was made using between three and fifteen colours and coated with several layers of varnish in sections. The varnish results in a sheer, glossy surface similar to that achieved by Hume’s use of household gloss paint in his paintings such as Incubus 1991 (Tate T07184) and Water Painting 1999 (Tate T07618). The prints are based on paintings Hume made between 1994 and 1998. Some of these paintings were derived from photographs, others from Hume’s imagination. Each print has a subtitle related to the original painting. This is the ninth image and its subtitle is Adult. It is based on a larger painting of the same title (1994, Carol & Arthur Goldberg Collection, New York) in gloss paint on MDF panel. Adult was inspired by the self-confident (and slightly intimidating) women Hume encountered in New York’s commercial galleries when Hume he was living there for a short period in the early 1990s. The image was adapted from a photograph found in a magazine. Unlike Yellow
Hair (Tate P78684), another image in the series, in Adult the textured lines in the paint which delineate the subject’s features have not been lost in the transfer to print but have been turned into coloured line. In the painting the adult’s neck, head and top are all one colour. In the print the face is a darker flesh tone than the neck and top, with lines in the same darker pink depicting the contours of neck and clothing. Features are outlined in still darker colours and the open-lipped mouth is the same baby pink as the background. Behind the adult’s right shoulder is a large reddish-brown flower. His or her flesh-toned eyes have no pupils and stare blankly out at the viewer.
Screenprinting is a medium ideally suited to Hume’s imagery since it involves layering areas of flat colour. His paintings of the early to mid 1990s are characterised by the use of simple blocks of vivid colour and elegant line reminiscent of the late prints of French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954). During this period Hume painted such iconic subjects as the Christian Madonna 1993 (private collection, London), as well as such everyday objects as flowers, birds, children’s toys and feet or hands. He also made portraits of artists and celebrities, from which he derived the images used in this portfolio of prints. Portraits provides a refined version of Hume’s painterly exploration of the difference between the surface and what lies underneath, what goes into the making of the image, or the mask, of a public icon and how a generic figure is depicted. Pushing Hume’s images still further towards abstraction, this portfolio contributes to the investigation into the signs or language of visual representation central to contemporary figurative painting.
Patrick Elliott, Jeremy Lewison, Contemporary British Art in Print: The Publications of Charles Booth-Clibborn and his Imprint The Paragon Press 1995-2000, London 2001, pp.10, 19, 146-57 and 320, reproduced (colour) front cover and p.146
Gary Hume, exhibition catalogue, British Pavilion, XLVIII Venice Biennale, British Council 1999, p.11
Gary Hume, exhibition catalogue, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht 1996