After studying at the Camberwell School of Art from 1949 to 1950, Hodgkin moved to the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, the natural home of abstract painting in Britain during the 1950s, where he was taught by William Scott, Jack Smith and Peter Lanyon. Ever treading a path between figuration and abstraction, Hodgkin developed a highly idiomatic and recognisable painting process and aesthetic. From the 1970s onwards, Hodgkin began to emphasise the object-ness of his works, whether on wood, canvas or paper, by incorporating framing devices or even found wooden frames. The work as object was frequently further accentuated through an intimate scale in contrast to the epic grandeur of many of his contemporaries. The tortuous evolution of his paintings was famed: Hodgkin returned to works over the course of several years before deeming them completed. The illusion of spontaneity in his brushwork disguised a protracted working practice.
In 1978, Howard Hodgkin travelled to Ahmedebad in India as a guest of the Sarabhai family, owners of a textile company and sponsors of a programme for international contemporary artists to utilise the machines, materials and skills of their locale to produce textile-based work. A long-standing fascination throughout his career, Hodgkin returned frequently to India, painting numerous works inspired by the country. Working in a factory dedicated to peasant crafts, Hodgkin received pairs of hand-laid, rag paper of substantial weight throughout each day, freshly damp from production. In the hour to two hours of drying time, Hodgkin painted each pair using a range of dyes that blotted, seeped, and spread in unexpected ways. The dyes could not be pre-mixed but instead suffused together in the damp paper, binding into the weave as colour and support dried in tandem, frequently with unexpected wrinkling. The necessity for speed engendered a certain fluidity in the series, a spontaneity and dynamism, and a vital volatility as chance and the unpredictable came into play.
The product of an entirely unique project within Hodgkin’s career, 'Window (Indian Leaves)' bears Hodgkin’s singularly idiomatic mark-making and colour palette dominated by reds and greens. Jagged painted borders framing the paper suggest the window of the title whilst green dots overlay an evocative red background. A reoccurring device in Hodgkin’s work, the window is a shortcut to a sense of forbidden intimacy, even a surreptitious voyeurism of a scene visible but at a remove. Perhaps an undulating landscape beyond a window frame is hinted towards, but fundamentally 'Window (Indian Leaves)' foregrounds process and material: the tactility of the hand-made paper, the impulsive patterning, the visibility of Hodgkin’s hand, and the luscious saturation of dye. The accomplishments of the Ahmedebad project was recognised with a dedicated exhibition at the Tate in 1982, and the front-cover of the catalogue was illustrated by 'Window (Indian Leaves)'.
Petersburg Press, London
Private Collection, Sweden
1982, London, Tate Gallery, Indian Leaves, 22 Sept. - 7 Nov. 1982, cat. no. 1, (illus.) 2013, Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, Indomania, 16 Oct. 2013 - 26 Jan. 2014, cat. no. 69 (illus.)
2016, London, Piano Nobile, Aspects of Abstraction: 1952-2007, 17 May - 23 June 2016, cat. no. 15
Aspects of Abstraction: 1952-2007, 2016, exh. cat. Piano Nobile, cat. no. 15, p. 49 (col. illus.)