29 September 2013

Susan Sontag on Howard Hodgkins #4

So many of the pictures refer to "abroad," as it used to be called. To sites of dalliance already consecrated by great painters of the past, which one never tires of revisiting: India, Italy, France, Morocco, Egypt. Seasons in their foreign plumage: fruit, palm trees, a searingly colored sky. And home pleasures consumed on foreign premises. (In bed in Venice... not in bed in London; the painter is not traveling alone.) There is love-making and dining and looking at art and shopping and gazing out over water. The sites bespeak an avid eye, and a taste for the domesticated; gardens and terraces, not forests and mountains. The evocation of sensuous, fortunate tourism -- dinner parties, nocturnal promenades, cherished art, memorable visits -- boldly affirms the idea of pleasure. 
   But the titles also intimate another relation to pleasure, with their naming of weather and seasons and times of day. The most common weather is rain; the season is invariably autumn; if a time of day is cited, its usually sunset -- which, apart from being in the thesaurus of melancholy.
   All the titles with "sunset," "autumn," "rain," "after....," "goodbye to.....," "the last time....," suggest rueful shadow cast on all pleasures when they are framed, theatrical-ized even , as acts of memory.
   Hodgkins may often be en voyage, but not as a beholder (the impressionist project). In the place of beholder, there is a rememberer. Both pursuits, that of the traveler and the collector, are steeped in elegiac feeling.

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