October 15, 2013

Gary Hume's Flowers

        I thought it was time again for something different, out of the usual range of relief block prints that I post.  Of course, in all logic it's inevitable that if I usually post things I really love, then something very different from that is likely to be something I don't really love.  I'm afraid that's the case today.  I don't find myself much enjoying Gary Hume's linocuts of flowers.  They are, to my taste, boring and more suited to textile designs than art I'd want to spend time focussing on.  And even as textile design, I wouldn't choose them!  But after all, it's all just a matter of taste, and the Tate considers these to be fine art.  So let's take a closer look.
        In 2005-6 Gary Hume made a series of eight linocuts of flowers.  (He began the work with Hugh Stoneman, and finished the series after Stoneman's death.)  These are bigger pieces than any of mine, about 22 inches tall, and of course printed by a printer, not Hume himself, so that the flat planes of color come out smooth, rich, and even, unlike mine.  This particular flower, number 4 in the series, is somewhere in the same family as Matisse's linoleum block prints that are flowing, sparse white lines simply carved onto a plain black background.  Hume, however, uses different colors of ink, presumably to add some interest.  In this piece he, like Matisse, shows his subject stylized, but essentially straightforwardly.  In most of the other
pieces in the series, on the other hand, the flowers are less obvious.  In several he zooms in on one small portion of a flower, with a result that looks almost abstract.
        I don't object to the idea of art reduced to simple lines - after all, I like many of Matisse's pieces, and I've even done a couple in that style myself.  I don't object to art that turns an everyday object into an abstraction - after all, I'm a big fan of Georgia O'Keeffe.  Nevertheless, I'm just not feeling any allure in these particular prints.  Perhaps it's the colors, which I find somewhat ugly; I might like these lines better if they were pure white on vivid black.  Perhaps it's the chosen flowers, which either leave the print awfully blank or are fussy many-petalled affairs.  But whatever it is, it's my opinion.  Maybe you feel differently.  Do these linoleum block prints sing to you?  If so, please share what it is you love about them!

[Pictures: Untitled 04 from Here's Flowers, linocut by Gary Hume, 2006;
Untitled 03 from Here's Flowers, linocut by Hume, 2006 (Images from Tate).]

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