Forgotten Howard Hodgkin Abstractions Unearthed After 20 Years

The late Howard Hodgkin (1932–2017) with a suite of his paintings, in 2008. Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images.

Renowned British abstractionist Howard Hodgkin has had a successful career spanning more than six decades. He was knighted in 1992, and made a Companion of Honour in 2003. With all the work he has produced it seems reasonable that a painting or two may have slipped his mind. Gagosian’s London Mayfair Gallery is showing a whole series of works—a collection of paintings made between 1990 and ’91, inspired by visits to India— that the artist had stored away and forgotten. Hodgkin created them at the 107 Workshop in Wilshire, where he worked for some time. Unsure if they were finished or not, he tucked them on a shelf and walked away.

The works finally came to light after more than two decades when his friend, printmaker Jack Shireff, decided to retire and move out of the work space. Earlier this year, they were delivered to Hodgkin wrapped in brown paper. Collectively titled “Indian Waves,” the paintings convey Hodgkin’s ongoing adoration of India. He has been visiting the country since 1964, and in an interview with the Guardian claimed he “couldn’t work without it.” Hodgkin is well known for distinctive paintings that reject conventions of both representation and abstraction. He uses compressed and expressive gestures, and complex patterns of color and texture to create images that are somehow emblematic of occurrences in his everyday life, as often alluded to in his titles.

Hodgkin, now 82, is recognized for his unconventional incorporation of painting, printmaking, and textural processes. “Indian Waves” attest to his signature style. He painted on handmade Indian Khadi paper (a onetime occasion for him) in a two-step process, applying vibrant shades of egg tempera Vert Veronese (illegal in the U.K. at the time) over dried textural prints made of ultramarine carborundrum powder.

Though no images of the works have yet  been released on Gagosian’s site, anyone familiar with his work (or who would like a pick-me-up from holiday blues) should not be disappointed by the lively mixed media works with names like Mumbai Wedding, Border, and Another Rainbow.

Howard Hodgkin’s “Indian Waves” will be on view at Gagosian gallery in Mayfair, London from November 28 through January 31.

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