‘I only get pleasure [while painting] if there is a problem, and when I solve that problem I need to make another one’ says Gary Hume. Part of the internationally celebrated group of Young British Artists that studied at London’s Goldsmiths College in the late 1980s, Hume has gone on to become one of Britain’s most highly respected painters.
In this film, made on the eve the Gary Hume exhibition at Tate Britain, Hume invites TateShots into his studio and talks about his working practice and his famous preference for household gloss paints.
There's no cathartic process in painting. I only get pleasure while there's a problem and then when I solve it. Then, of course, as soon as that’s done I need to make another problem and then solve that.
I love painting, so I love making still things, contemplative still moments that don’t particularly change, or they just change with light, which is a very gorgeous thing.
Well, I paint with gloss paint, just household Dulux paint, because it's fluid, it sets, it's standard, it's recognisable. It's the sort of mundane stuff that we've all got, old pots in the cupboard and under the stairs and things. When you make a painting out of it, it becomes beautiful. It transforms itself from a mundane object into a beautiful object.
Quite often what happens is that the paintings have to be broken because they're not getting anywhere. Everything that I can think of that makes them better is just rubbish and I have to break the painting by ruining it to free myself up again and have some idea of what I'm going to do. This painting here, that was many colours and I just painted that upright because I just want to see straight away what the hell that is.
I like abstract formalism, which drew me towards the shapes in the first place, but I also like picture making. I have an image that I find, generally speaking, and for one reason or another the image goes around your painting and I go great, I found you. Very, very rarely will the colours that I choose have any relation to the original image, so then I have to make up a palette and see whether that works. There's no new work in the show. The latest one would be from two years ago, I think. Apart from the A Door I've made specifically for the exhibition. Enter the brain of Gary Hume.
I've always tried to make sculptures and I'm not as relaxed with it as I am with painting. I made a painting and then I decided to go and make snowmen and dye them up in Yorkshire and then photograph them, and then I decided to make a sculpture. So that was easy because that’s like a ready-made. It's not my natural thing, so I have an on-going battle with it.
I wanted to paint a very, very powerful German leader. Everything's about the painting. I choose the colours not to represent Angela Merkel, I'm using the shapes of her face and my interest in the political rise of Germany to make a painting. My greater interest is in making a painting that I can look at. It seemed somehow accurate colours for painting a very powerful politician.
Is it straight?
But it's about the painting so in the end it doesn’t really matter to me what it is, it's what the painting looks like.
I'm a slave to it.