June 18, 2013

Gary Hume at Tate Britain

The Cradle - Gary Hume

“If I can't see regret in a painting, then I think it's less than truthful.”

Gary Hume is an artist whose idea of perfect beauty is truth, no matter how awkward the truth may be. With high-gloss household paint, he makes enigmatic portraits and still lifes in which identifying characteristics have been re-focused, reproportioned, or removed altogether.

Yearning is always present in Hume's work, a reaching out to grasp some elemental quality of sex, death, or a woman. The melancholia is candy-colored, but the candy here is inedible, its dirty pastels grinding off acid yellows and prosthetic limb flesh tones.

In a survey of the artist's work over the last 20 years currently showing at the Tate Britain, the model Kate Moss is boiled down to a bas-relief of her eyes rendered in calamine lotion pink, with singer Michael Jackson's surgery-mutilated nose plopped on top. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel becomes a sea foam-colored head with a lemon chin. Outlines of naked women reflect the viewer's face in their creamy, sensual sheen.

Angela Merkel - Gary Hume

Hume celebrates the ordinary and casts a forensic eye over small details of the subjects that fascinate him. The results are knowingly naïve paintings and sculptures that seduce with wrong colors and disarm with tenderness.

Hume's Tulips on a special June edition of UK Bazaar

I interviewed Hume for a BBC Radio 6 Music segment called "Three Minute Epiphany". He's a winsome storyteller who speaks entertainingly about his relationship to his work. You can listen to it here.

Gary Hume will be on at Tate Britain 5 June - 1 September


  1. Angela Merkel's chin looks like more than just a lemon, it looks like the cartoon-character face on a box of Lemonheads.