26 May – 1 July 2006
‘When you create a picture you are finding something. You work with a fluid material which then sets, capturing the very memory of that liquidity. Although initially you would not think it, stone and lead behave in the same way as paint does, it’s simply a matter of time or pressure.' Gary Hume
For his exhibition at White Cube British artist Gary Hume presented a new series of works. Recalling the Madonna and Child of Renaissance and Baroque traditions and using marble as his medium, Hume fused subject and material to create opulent ‘paintings’ whose hard, bejewelled surface has replaced the slick glossy plane of previous works.
Entitled Cave Paintings, the seven marble tableaux use a variety of different stones set against each other in collaged sections that appear like tectonic plates. They are held together by a lead tracery that provides both the edge to the expanses of colour as well as a kind of automatic drawing, traced by the natural faults and veins inherent in the stone itself. Employing a technique traditionally used to carve epitaphs into gravestones, Hume used the lead tracery in these works in much the same way that his etched lines delineated the slick swathes of colour in his high gloss aluminium paintings.
Since Antiquity, highly polished limestone has been used to adorn the walls and floors of civic buildings and palaces. Today this opulent material has been variously infused with colour, quartz and mirror shards and adapted for the domestic interior. Hume has used both natural and man-made marbles as his palette, in essence pitting the sensibilities of an ornate Baroque décor against the aesthetic of the young city professional's starter flat. One large panel, for example, melds muted green slate with wood-grain marble and fawn granite in contrast to another that juxtaposes the complimentary tones of sparkling purple and yellow.
Hume's monolithic compositions are hand carved and richly decadent, patterned with an expansive visual tapestry that combines elements drawn from the natural world with powerful symbols of human birth and the dawn of mankind. As with all of Hume’s work, the figurative elements are reduced and suggestive. When a mother and child is depicted, for example, it is overlaid with flora and fauna. In others, the maternal presence exists only as a suggestion, as a pair of eyes protecting the fragility of new life or as a character off-stage, indicated through the gestures made by the child.
In the upstairs gallery the smooth lustre of the Cave Paintings was continued in a series of thirteen dense canvases combining chalk, charcoal and oil paint. Displayed alongside these were two large-scale bronze owls, continuing Hume's interest in a childhood pictorial idiom.