Patrick Caulfield & Howard Hodgkin: ‘Painter-Colleagues’ | Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert

Howard Hodgkin’s always stood alone among the select few artists from postwar Britain who made it big - and whose work has lasted. Not for him the intense psychological portraits of Auerbach and Kossoff, Bacon and Freud. Or, on the other hand, the light-footed Pop of Eduardo Paolozzi and Patrick Caulfield.

Hodgkin was good friends with the latter artist, calling him “the closest I ever came to a painter-colleague”, and therefore giving this new show of both men’s work a title. But I can’t see that they had much in common artistically. Hodgkin’s intense and emotional colours, and his focus on the painted gesture, brings him much closer to his European counterparts Pierre Soulages and Hans Hartung; his persistant use of dark frames for his horizontally-lined colour fields reminds me of Marc Rothko.

Howard Hodgkin ‘Egypt’ (1993-96) Egypt (1993-96)

Two works on show from a later Hodgkin series, from the 1990s and named after places, stood out to me. One’s named Egypt, the other, a bit smaller, is Scotland. In both, the painter has attempted to capture a country in colour. The former in thick bands of desert-yellow, orange and fiery red. The latter in gorgeous bands of gorse-green and purple.

In both, Hodgkin has extended his very thick oil paint beyond the wooden board of the centre and onto the frame, lapping it with still more bands of colour. While the works vary so widely in the heat and light they suggest, they both project a mood of intensity and stillness. In a silent gallery, they’d be quite frightening - to me anyway. They gesture towards what’s always there, eternally.

Howard Hodgkin ‘Scotland’ (1994-95) Scotland (1994-95)

This gallery was not silent on the day I visited, despite me being the only visitor. Through some accident of pipework or ventilation, the wind outside visited moaned through the empty rooms, spookily amplified. It upped the intensity of what I was seeing to an unsettling extent.

I couldn’t resist asking the gallerist on the front desk whether she was spooked out by the sounds, too. Oh no she replied, not even when I come in the morning and the lights are all off and it’s just me and the paintings. I find them soothing.

I had one last look at Egypt, glowing sandily on the wall. I thought, she’s on to something!

Patrick Caulfield & Howard Hodgkin: ‘Painter-Colleagues’ is at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert (London). 21 February - 12 April 2024