The Two Passions of Howard Hodgkin

by Cheryl Duggan
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By: Cheryl Duggan
The Two Passions of Howard Hodgkin is one part – his collection of Indian art, and another part art – works he has completed.  The exhibit is divided between his two passions with Vision of Mughal India, and Inspired by India, respectively.  The Aga Khan Museum is home to this two part exhibit until June 21, 2015.
The Vision of Mughal India portion of this exhibit is an intriguing collection of paintings that would have required an intense level of visual and character study. Whether that would be to realistically portray the feathers of a bird, or the facial features for a royal portrait.  Then there is the ability to distinguish between different hierarchical levels of royalty. Often it is reflected in a stylized fashion by the size of an individual character and their elephant.  With royalty depicted larger regardless of perspective and associated scale.
The majority of the pieces, in this portion of the collection, have been completed on paper with at least one stand out piece (A Court Beauty) having been completed on cotton cloth.  These paintings to a large extent have been completed with opague watercolors with some having been accented with gold.
Moving on to the Inspired by India portion of the exhibit.  Never, ever, ever, have I walked into a gallery and instinctively known the titled of a piece.  Until now.  Once I made the transition from the Visions of Mughal India collection into the next gallery I glanced at the wall to my left.  There was a piece with a blue base paint with shades of sea green that didn’t fill the canvas let alone the frame.  It had a top layer of white splashes and free flowing lines.  My first thought was “Surf”. In my mind, there is no other title that would have suited this piece.  The label confirmed my initial reaction.
Whether a specific Howard Hodgkin painting even fills the canvas, or explodes beyond the canvas to the frame, you will develop an appreciation of what this artist has spent decades perfecting.  Even as some have tried to label him as abstract he rejects the notion of belonging to any specific school of art. The instinctive connection between the viewer and his work is what Howard Hodgkin hopes to achieve with every piece he creates.
The difference between these Two Passions of Howard Hodgkin makes them both worthy of a detailed exploration that you can only achieve through a trip to the Aga Khan Museum.  In the Visions of Mughal India exhibit you will want to visually inspect every detail for meaning.  Whereas, Howard Hodgkin has done a fabulous job of expressing enough detail for you to get the meaning in the Inspired by India collection.
The Aga Khan Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am – 6 pm except Wednesdays when they have extended hours from 10am – 8pm.
In addition, the Aga Khan has implemented a new initiative that grants free admission to the public on Wednesday evenings from 4 – 8pm.

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