Howard Hodgkin

Leaf, a singular image with a singular title that triggers multiple associations: a green thought in a green shade, a zen calligraph, a moghul miniature, a memento mori.  A time worn frame containing an enfolded moment of the present: the vivid chlorophyll of a new leaf or grassy blade compressed into a wooden box, a device suggesting a collector’s cabinet or a botanist’s specimen.


The bright green stroke, wet with fresh sap, records a lifetime’s practice in a single deft gesture, one that effortlessly doubles back on itself to end where it began. A simple mark, swiftly and spontaneously achieved yet finely judged in conception and placement, whose colour and linearity recalls the leaf’s substance without describing it. It is a ‘leaf’ by association, conjured up in an act of evocative visual alignment. The word is an afterthought - but then all his work resides in the space between the act and the associations it generates. The label, contiguous with the image, becomes the necessary sensory trigger for the viewer, releasing with a playful sweep of oil and pigment a feeling compounded of desire and reverie.

Leaf is included in the exhibition Howard Hodgkin: Time and Place 2001-10 at Modern Art Oxford, until 5 September 2010