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A contemporary of David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield, born in London in 1936, was early on associated with the genre of Pop Art, although he always resisted this label, adamant that his compositions were influenced by Modern Masters such as Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse.
Hot on the heels of Tate Modern’s big Lichtenstein Pop Art retrospective, Caulfield’s work certainly has more of a Romantic sensibility, and there is no critique of Americana.
Many of his paintings are still lifes or interiors, albeit rendered in a modern graphic style, with thick black outlines and flat planes of bright colour. In many, however, realistic elements are integrated, giving the resulting works a dream-like quality.
His love of Europe and the Mediterranean also shines through, interpreted with exotic flair.
This exhibition shows over 30 of Caulfield’s works from key moments in his career.
Patrick Caulfield was already finishing his studies at the Royal College of Art when Gary Hume was born, in Kent, in 1962. 25 years later, Hume became part of the YBA generation, studying at Goldsmiths, and taking part in Damien Hirst’s notorious Freeze exhibition in 1988.
Hume’s works, of which a similar number are on display, are equal to Caulfield’s in their use of vibrant colour, line, and flat planes, but their subject matter includes living figures such as mothers and babies and famous friends.
Don’t expect them to be recognisable, however, since he abstracts and simplifies liberally, as can be seen in his rendering of Tony Blackburn (1994), or Kate Moss (Beautiful, 2002) with Michael Jackson’s nostrils superimposed.
In contrast, his flowers are beautifully evocative in their simplicity, with the swirls of gloss on aluminium creating delicate petals.
The exhibition takes us through Hume’s career to date, from his earliest paintings of flora and fauna, through his mid career burst of exuberantly bright colour in household gloss, to his recent, slightly more subdued palate. Recollecting his hospital door works, for which he first became famous, entry to the show is through a set of specially modified pink glossy doors.
Both artists were nominated for the Turner Prize, and both were made Royal Academicians. Hume also represented Britain in the Venice Biennale in 1999. Caulfield died in 2005, with Braque Curtain (2005) being his final work. Hume continues to live and work in London and upstate New York.
Tate Britain, Linbury Galleries, London
5 June–1 September 2013
by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY