A graduate of Goldsmiths College in London, Gary Hume emerged in 1988 when he was included in the seminal exhibition Freeze, organized by artist Damien Hirst. That exhibition launched the careers of several figures who became known as the Young British Artists (YBAs). Hume’s first major paintings, influenced by Minimalism and Conceptual art, were based on hospital swing doors. He abandoned this series in 1992 and turned to an unabashedly sensual, biomorphic style in vivid colors recalling Pop art. His silhouetted forms are based on images of women, plants, and animals found in advertising and fashion as well as in art history. They are selected, he says, “for their ability to describe beauty and pathos.”
In printmaking Hume has worked exclusively in screenprint, which corresponds perfectly to the uniformly flat, mechanical-looking surfaces of his glossy enamel-on-aluminum paintings. Since 1996 he has produced two major series published by The Paragon Press, as well as several individual prints issued by Paragon and other publishers. Like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, who are among his most obvious predecessors, Hume uses printmaking as a way of revisiting the imagery in his paintings, refracting their forms and ideas through another set of materials and in a different scale. His Spring Angels series is related to several paintings titled Angel, some of which were completed prior to the prints and some afterwards. The imagery is based on the artist’s photographs of enormous concrete angels on the ceiling of the Catholic Cathedral in Brasilia. Following his usual practice, he enlarged and simplified certain details of the photographs in order to generate the outlines that structure his quasi-abstract compositions. The springtime color scheme, which is based on leaves and cuttings the artist brought from the countryside into the print workshop, represents a subtle departure from Hume’s previously more acidic palette.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Starr Figura, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 260.