Howard Hodgkin: Acquainted with the Night, at Alan Cristea Gallery.

To mark the imminent occasion of Howard Hodgkins eightieth birthday, Alan Cristea Gallery is showing a new series of monumental prints by the artist collectively entitled Acquainted with the Night. Hodgkin was once known for his habit of creating almost perversely small pictures, but during the last two decades he has increasingly worked on a large scale, and with commanding assurance. This has been conspicuously true of his work as a printmaker, so much so that he has quietly pioneered new departures within the medium itself. In 2009 he made the two largest etchings ever created, calling the pair Time Goes By. Each was twenty feet long, evoking the panoramic scale of Monets Nympheas paintings, but their effects were so turbulent and explosive that it was as if depth-charges had been laid in that tranquil waterlily pond in the garden at Giverny. Hodgkins new aquatints are not quite as large, mostly some seven feet high by eight feet across, but nonetheless gigantic compared to most prints.

They were created using a substance known as carborundum, which was originally used by printers in its solid form to grind down lithographic stones, but in this case is itself powdered and mixed with PVA glue to form a paste which the painter can apply directly to an aluminium printing plate. The marks dry to form a granular surface which can be inked and printed in different colours. The artist has described the results as surrogate paintings ... on the edge of not being prints at all. Working with the basic unit of a single set of preserved painterly gestures, the artist plays startling variations on a theme. In his new series, a wave-like form, disintegrating at its margins into specks and spatters like...

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