Magazine article Artforum International

Gary Hume

Magazine article Artforum International

Gary Hume

Article excerpt

WHITECHAPEL ART GALLERY

Gary Hume appears to have entered his Midsummer Night's Dream period. His recent paintings conjure up a world of enchanted woods haunted by evanescent spirits, where nothing is quite what it seems. His principal subjects are things that fly, hover, hang, float, swim--birds, flowers, angels, nests, reflections in running water. Here, the laws of gravity and identity are in abeyance.

Hume is by no means the first British artist to be interested in this kind of subject matter. When I interviewed him in 1995, just about the only bit of biographical information he gave me was that he takes his son to see the grave of William Blake--an artist who saw angels. In the Victorian period, fairy painting was a popular genre, with scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest often represented. They were painted with copious and hallucinatory detail, and had titles like Fairies in a Bird's Nest and The Captive Robin. In the Royal Academy mounted an exhibition of fairy painting, which Hume must have seen.

Of course, Hume's work has always been haunted--in the sense that the markings of his early swing-door paintings doubled as schematic faces, and one could see one's own face reflected in the high-gloss surface. But there was a heraldic precision and a hieratic fixity to the images in that early work. If they were faces, they were ones that eyeballed you with unerring intensity. They demanded that you stand at attention before them.

In contrast, the new works drift in and out of consciousness, slipping and sliding across your field of vision. …

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