Gary Hume's paintings and sculptures are colourful, visually simplified explorations of objects and aspects of everyday life, rendered in planes of colour, bold outlines, and silhouettes. His enamel paintings on paper and aluminium present an eye-catching glossy reflective sheen.Read More
Hume's seminal artworks of the late 1980s and early 90s are his 'Door' paintings. The first of these large-scale abstract works were modelled on measurements taken from double swing doors in St Bartholomew's Hospital, London.
Painted with glossy pre-mixed household enamel paint on aluminium and MDF, the paintings mimic the panels, windows, and kickplates of these doors in a simplistic, observational manner. Presenting a to-scale architectural reference that reflects the bodily proportions of the viewer, the works confound the distinction between art and object, as well as between figurative representation and abstraction.
Painted at times in fleshy tones and resembling facial features, the doors also take on an anthropomorphic quality in several instances, particularly in later iterations.
In the 1990s, Hume's subjects expanded beyond the singular architectural motif which launched his career into a more varied range of abstracted figurative works. These paintings often drew from found images, depicting a plethora of people, plants, and animals rendered in shiny silhouettes on monochrome backgrounds or contrasting blocks of colour.
These simplified Pop-like works are made with vivid colours and cartoonish lines, representing celebrity figures like Michael Jackson and Kate Moss, as well as fellow artists. Each figure is reduced to an abstracted depiction composed of just two or three colours. From these, Hume derived his 1998 print series 'Portraits'.
In his 1999 'Water Paintings' series, the artist presents silhouettes of women drawn in outlines against monochrome backgrounds. Painted with fluid rippling lines, the watery quality of the picture surfaces is enhanced by the characteristic sheen of enamel paint that permeates Hume's work.
Hume often traces his images from photographs, either taken by himself or sourced from printed media, projecting the outline onto his painting surface. In the case of the 'Water Paintings', Hume took images of his wife, artist Georgie Hopton, and his friend Zoe Manzi. This same silhouette approach can be seen in later works, like the screen print Blue Nun (2016).
In the 2007 series 'American Tan', the artist pursues an examination of American culture and policy and its influence on the world through abstracted representations of cheerleaders. Hume, who began living and working between London and a rural property in upstate New York in the early 2000s, visually dissects this icon of American kitsch.
Hume's paintings are intended as a reflection of the time through passive observation of the present. More recent series grapple with personal and political tragedies, as well as the exhausting news cycles of conflict in the Middle East and the refugee crisis.
In his 'Destroyed School Paintings' series (2018—2019), the artist responds to news-media imagery of destroyed schools in war-torn countries by focusing on the hope within the image. His works reference the remaining children's drawings seen on walls and blackboards in the destroyed schools, rejecting the sensational for familiar imagery that conveys a sense of youth and innocence.
Parallel to his paintings on aluminium and paper, Hume has developed a varied sculptural practice. This began with his 'Snowman' sculptures, which first appeared in 1997 and continue to evolve. A simple premise, Hume's Snowman figure is comprised of two bronze spheres, typically bearing a glossy sheen, that make the familiar form of a snowman. Several versions can be found across indoor and outdoor spaces, including Snowman, Two Balls Twinkle White (2014) at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Another of Hume's ongoing sculptural motifs is his 'Wonky Wheels', first conceived in 2013. Imperfectly shaped thin metal wheels painted in vibrant colours allude to the imperfect wheel of life and the instability of personal and historical narratives.