Glossy surfaces, ice-cream palettes and a Hermaphrodite Polar Bear. This is Gary Hume: Flashback, the Arts Council Collection’s series of the artist’s old and new creations.
In discussing his work, Hume said he enjoyed creating uncertain pieces: “When I don’t know what it is, I’m intrigued. The painting is being very clear and finely mysterious.”
These are perhaps reassuring words for the public who may find themselves perplexed by the simple outlines of a seemingly bizarre subject matter, The Shit being a prime example.
However, the paintings do create a perfect balance between the clear and the unclear. Outlines which trigger the viewer’s memory of regular objects are cleverly formed. Even the intriguing depiction of the Hermaphrodite Polar Bear is recognisable when the viewer notices the clearly identifiable features of a polar bear.
For me, the painting which stood out was Begging For It. Again, a relatively simple painting, it presents many ambiguities. Firstly, the title itself is ambiguous. What is being begged for? Money? Sex? Or is the figure deep in prayer? Silhouetted against a green background, the jet-black arms draw the viewer in to the figure’s begging. I found myself staring at it for a considerable time, feeling strangely moved by its desperate plea for an undisclosed wish. Perhaps this is what is meant by the ‘memory motifs’ often attributed to Hume’s work. The viewer cannot help but apply their own meanings and memories to his paintings, a factor which the simplicity of his designs permits.
(Aberdeen Art Gallery until 19 January 2013)