Howard Hodgkin participated in a residency at FWM in 1991. He painted a brightly-colored watercolor on rag paper, which served as the basis for a silkscreen printed scarf, made with acid dyes on silk. Hodgkin’s abstract design involves distinct swatches of saturated blue and gold, covered with a web of overlapping and clustering lines of bright red. The plane of the red also covers and extends beyond a painted black border, reminiscent of Hodgkin’s style of painting over frames, which gives a sense of protection to the interior of the piece. There is ambiguity in the surface and depth of the watercolor, as in the final silkscreen print. Each color of the artist’s original watercolor was separated and made into its own silkscreen, coming together only in the final print when all colors were layered to recreate the original design. As a scarf, the dramatic gesture of Hodgkin’s watercolor is further accentuated by the printed version’s soft fold and drape when worn on the body.
While Hodgkin is often labeled an abstract painter, he has countered this idea, saying: “I am a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations” (Howard Hodgkin, Thames and Hudson, London, and Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1994). The specific references in Hodgkin’s work are left to the imagination of the viewer to determine, and paintings are often based on the artist’s memory or experience of a place or a person. He describes the process of painting:
I start out with the subject and naturally I have to remember first of all what it looked like, but it would also perhaps contain a great deal of feeling and sentiment. All of that has got to be somehow transmuted, transformed, or made into a physical object and when that happens, when that’s finally been done, when the last physical marks have been put on and the subject comes back—then the picture’s finished and there is no question of doing anything more to it.
—Howard Hodgkin: Forty Paintings: 1973–84, George Braziller, Inc., New York, in association with the Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1984