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8 May 2014

An Appraisal of Gary Hume's 'Morning' by Louisa Buck

An Appraisal of Gary Hume's 'Morning' by Louisa Buck

GARY HUME – MORNING / Louisa Buck / April 2014
Gary Hume’s print ‘Morning’ seems at first to be a specific, botanically-rendered specimen. But nothing is fixed or certain. It’s not even clear what kind of plant it is: a blackberry, a rose or maybe even a dahlia? And are they fruit or flowers weighing down its slim, elegantly drooping stems? Look closer and things become more strange – and marvellous. Whatever it is, this plant is not an inert, cut specimen but still growing and full of life, extending out of the picture and into the ground. Notice the miraculous chinks of vivid purple, shining out where the ink thins between the edges of the blacky-blue petals/segments of the two coloured blooms/berries. Each one gleams darkly like a succulent jewel
Then there’s the way in which, in a reversal of the natural scheme of things, the leaves and stalks have been ‘dark-lighted’ with luscious amounts of a shinier deeper grey, the pressing of the thickly-applied ink against the wood block giving not only an active, animated texture but also making satisfying ridges that lap along the edges - much like those along the contours of Hume’s glossy paintings. It’s unwise to take Hume’s titles too literally, but here the limpid grey-blue background can only be the misty changing light of morning and according to Hume the starting point for the work was “when I was looking at the magical colours of the unripe blackberry against the greens of the under and over sides of its leaves in the morning light.”

However that’s where any literalness ends as Hume then deliberately departs from the specificity of ‘natural’ colour or botanical observation, merging species, fruit and flower in order to capture what he calls “the elusive transient feel of light and ripeness.” Gary Hume once described his paintings as “flora, fauna and portraiture” and this is just one of a parade of flowers that have always cropped up in his work. Blossoms explode like fireworks behind his early silhouette figures of the 90s; plants are used to evoke individuals - from the shamrock face of ‘Tony Blackburn’ to the slinky ‘Nicola as an Orchid’ or the petal features of ‘She Who Waits’ – and Hume’s gorgeous oddly-hued blooms also frequently take centre stage, seemingly portrayed as subjects in their own right but simultaneously conjuring up a complicated spectrum of moods, atmospheres and subjective states. Not for nothing did Jack Bankowsky title his catalogue essay for Hume’s Tate Britain show, ‘You Hit Me With a Flower’...

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