Here’s Flowers is a portfolio of eight linocuts published by Charles Booth Clibborn under his imprint, The Paragon Press, London. Hume worked on these linocuts with the master printmaker Hugh Stoneman, completing the project alone after Stoneman’s death in December 2005. They were printed on 400gsm Velin Arches Blanc paper in an edition of sixty-eight. In addition to a set of artist’s proofs, four artist’s copies were printed and Tate’s copy is one of these. All the prints are signed by the artist on the back and dedicated to Tate.
Linocut is a medium ideally suited to Hume’s imagery since its slightly textured surface accepts ink evenly, creating large areas of flat colour. The portfolio presents a series of flowers constructed from the combination of flat planes and simple shapes of colour defined by elegant line drawing. Each print was made using three to five different colours, paying special attention to subtle changes in tonal variations and line adjustments. All the prints are untitled, numbered from one to eight and share the same portrait format and dimensions.
Each print depicts an isolated enlarged flower or plant outlined against large planes of colour in the background. In Untitled 01, 02 and 03, a fragment or detail of the flower – its petals, blossoms, buds, stems and seed cups – has been magnified and appears to be pulled out in relief. In these prints the palette varies from saturated brown, ochre and olive-green, to light pink and yellow. For the other images in the series, Hume uses subtle shades of green, brown, and blue-black.
In some cases, the parts of the flower are abstracted to become almost unrecognisable, as in Untitled 01, 02 and 06. In Untitled 06, the magnified petals of a flower occupy the whole surface of the print, dividing it into four alternate colour planes: light grey, darker grey, green and darker grey again. Similarly, the flower represented in Untitled 07 has also been largely magnified, depicting a close up of a blossom, with an increased use of line drawing both in black and white.
In Untitled 04, 05, and 08 the figure emerges from the background through the use of a narrow tonal range of blues, greys, greens and whites. Untitled 04 offers a more figurative representation of a flower with its stem, leaves and petals. In this image only three colours have been used: a dark blue for the background – on which the stem and leaves have been delicately outlined in white – and a slightly lighter blue to define the full blossom. Untitled 05 combines two different tones of green to differentiate the background and the figure; above the central blossom, a bright yellow bud floats into the margin of the composition. In Untitled 08 the use of colour has been reduced to just one blue, evenly applied to the whole surface. Spreading from the top down to the centre of the composition is the figure of a lily, elegantly outlined in black.
Flowers have been a central motif in Hume’s paintings since 1993. Recent examples include Brown Roses 2004, Peonies 2004 and Grey Leaves 2004. When compared to these earlier works, the new series stands out for its combination of darker shades and matte colours, as opposed to the brilliant surfaces that have often characterised Hume’s paintings. As a group the prints in the new portfolio create a muted atmosphere with their intricate and ornate foliage and flowers.
Gary Hume: Door Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Modern Art Oxford, 2008.
Anne Prenzler and Michael Wilson, Gary Hume: Carnival, exhibition catalogue, Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover 2004.