With his new solo show at Edinburgh's Dean Gallery, GARY HUME shrugs off the 'Young British Artist' tag and comes Of age. Words: Susanna Beaumont
a sense of
GARY HUME PAINTS PICTURES THE COLOUR 0F SMARTIES. Highly-polished Smarties. Which is maybe why his shiny. candy-coloured paintings have been described as tasteful. But Hume is not one to pander to other people‘s tastes.
‘I don't think about my audience when I paint.‘ declares Hume. '1 just think about keeping myself excited and interested. It’s about having fun. You see. all I do is paint.‘
Kent—born Hume came to prominence in the early ‘)()s and. as befits this label-obsessive era. be fast found himself tagged a ‘Young British Artist‘ (YBA). The term was being banded around with zeal. It was as if a new species had been discovered: a dazzlingly new and coolly provocative artist type who could party late and deliver the tabloid press sufficient shock-horror art stories. l-lume had the credentials. if not the high-decibel controversy factor. He had taken part in l’reeze. the now legendary 1988 art show put on by Damien Hirst in a redundant London warehouse. He later took part in the YBA‘s finest hour. the l997 hype-drenched art show .S'ensulimz. And this year he is representing Britain at the prestigious international art show. the Venice Biennale. By all accounts. the opening party was appropriately hip. when Hume got Jarvis Cocker to play behind venetian blinds.
In his early work. Hume’s knack was to sensualise the
mundane. In one series. he turned the archetypal symbol of
the institution — paint—scuffed. disinfectant-tainted hospital double—doors — into clean—cut. geometric fields of hi-gloss colour in candy-floss pink. sunshine yellow and chianti red.
When the doors series came to a close around 1993. Hume found himself in a career cul-du-sac. ‘If things become too formulaic. you can smell it when you are painting.‘ he says and. in a sort of back to basics
programme. he found himself playing with his child‘s toys. This consciously regressive behaviour also delivered the home-movie. Me As King ('nut. which shows Hume sitting in a bath. smoking and wearing a Burger King hat.
Soon after came paintings of contemporary icons. Patsy Kensit and Kate Moss. Painted in ﬂat stretches of bright colour. Hume's portraits didn‘t even suggest a well-formed cheekbone; instead. it‘s all surface charm and shine. all Dolce & (iabbana. Hume doesn‘t do psychological interrogation by paint brush — household names from the world of exterior gloss were. fittingly enough. described in
glossy household paint. , _ This Hume-painted world is a quietly If th'ngs become too
bewitching one. Looking at one of his
)aintings can )ut vou in mind of gazing into '1 '
I ~ 1 — ~ ~ ‘ formulaic, you can smell it
stylish shop window. Within a glazed
enclosure. pink mannequins parade a chill— cabinet chic. You can‘t get close. and Hume is when you are happy with that. ‘I don't like anyone going off
fora wander in the painting.‘ he says. It can be pa|nt|ng' disconcerting. Hume‘s use of high-gloss paint Gary Hume
frequently throws back a reflection. a
reﬂection of you. This is a no-go fantasy land.
‘A painting should be like looking at a person.‘ the artist
continues. ‘You know they have a history and they will have
a future. but that belongs to them. it doesn‘t belong to you.‘ At the Dean Gallery. Hume is showing new work. The
subjects include orchids. angels. minstrels and nudes. Be
prepared to look upon another world.
Gary Hume: New Work, Dean Gallery (Venue 69) 624 6200, 11 Aug—17 Oct, Mon-Sat 10am—5pm; Sun 11am—5pm, £2.50 (£1.50).