Hodgkin in Hong Kong

Posted by in Culture, Visual Arts

This year marks the 40th anniversary of my first visit to Hong Kong when the tap water was brown and green and white stripy Tristars perilously glided into Kai Tak. Apparently it is also the length of time some local collectors have been purchasing Howard Hodgkin paintings. Taking that into consideration it is astonishing to learn this is his first showing in the territory.

The gallery, GAGOSIAN, looks like a gallery should; clean, elegant and the fact the early spring sky outside is white as the walls further accentuates the mood. The 23 paintings – all oil on board – live up to Hodgkin’s reputation of bright colourful abstractions some of which leave ample space for the bare wood to breathe, while others are smothered in thick sweeping brush strokes as frenetic as life on the streets below.

Is it wrong to refer to Hodgkin as a romantic? Many, not just in this collection, but in the main his work describes place, weather conditions and natural occurrence. He is the artistic equivalent to many of the musicians I admire, strange that none (as yet) have honoured him with an ambient album of instrumental eclogues.

Here alone we have a smattering; Always Afternoon, Tide, Water, Thundercloud, yet it’s India particularly that seems dominant: Britannia Bombay, Bombay Night, Bombay Afternoon, Indian Wave, Indian Rain and Hello Bombay. Only Paris breaks this geographical pattern.

So is there a reason or logic to this collection? The show is called In The Pink though I can’t think why, other than that it’s the picture that has taken the longest to produce or perhaps engineer would be a better word.

The press release gives mention to an expressive candour of depth and vigour, the interchange between light and dark, pockets of time and silence. Indeed these are brief moments in a career that has traversed over half a century or in other words slightly more than the 40 that have bought both Hodgkin and myself to Hong Kong.

*Hodgkin died shortly after my visit in March 2017 but his legacy will live on.

*it is difficult running a playlist with a musicians thoughts and titles against a visual artists’ thoughts and titles. Neither intended to accompany the other, however it could be said that loosely speaking the nocturnal blues of Elegy could work with River Man – David Sylvian, the greens of Britannia Bombay could go with something like Avenue of Trees by John Foxx and Harold Budd, and Indian Wave could go with Strange Light from Eno’s Music for Films or As Long as I Can Hold My Breathe again by Harold Budd. As for the gallery I could have utilised Sakamoto and Noto’s Insen for the umpteenth time. It was that kind of environment and that kind of day.

Photos: KH