27 September – 26 October 2002
For his exhibition at White Cube Gary Hume, best known for his paintings using gloss paint on aluminium panels to present a visual vocabulary distinguished by a bright palette, reduced singular imagery and flat areas of colour, presented a new series of works. Hume has continually returned to particular subjects such as the nude, the portrait, the garden, and the pictorial idiom of childhood with his images of polar bears, snowmen, rabbits, owls and large close-up faces. The feelings they evoke are often dreamlike, like childhood recollected. The emotional vantage point being that of a child perhaps viewing trees from below or looking at a bird’s nest through a lattice of twigs and branches, seeing the pink of a rabbit’s eye or a pink faceless adult.
Whilst Hume's paintings have always appeared to be about their surfaces - shiny and reflective in gloss paint - these new works seem more inward and secretive, generating a sense that things are being withheld. In several works the imagery appears latent, as if it were heat-sealed and held back through a narrow tonal range of blues, greys and whites. Many of the new paintings are infused with a melancholic and heavy beauty. Together the paintings create an atmosphere of muted celebration with their intricate and ornate swathes, bouquets and garlands of flowers. In several paintings a fragment or detail appears to be pulled out in relief, one peony head out of many, a schematised nose on a muted pink face, the horizontal green line of the hat, a strand of highlighted hair. Making the detail more visible only serves to push the rest of the image back, making it latent, generating a feeling of loss.