Howard Hodgkin, born in 1932, is widely regarded as one of the most significant painters at work in Britain today. Renowned for his mastery of colour, Hodgkin represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1984, was awarded the Turner Prize in 1965 and was knighted in 1992. Hodgkin has been the subject of major retrospective exhibitions around the world, including a survey at Tate, London in 2006. For the British Council's premises in India, Hodgkin collaborated closely with the architect Charles Correa in the production of the magnificent mural for the front façade.

Although Hodgkin is principally known as a painter, and indeed one famed for his command of the medium, the artist has continually explored the possibilities of printmaking. Over the course of half a century, Hodgkin has produced more than 140 print editions, experimenting with material, technique and scale to create a substantial body of work, as accomplished as his works in oil.

 This exhibition, drawn from the holdings of the British Council Collection, is an opportunity to consider key examples from Hodgkin's print oeuvre alongside the significant 1973 painting Still Life in a Restaurant. What we witness is the successful translation - the continuation -  of the artist's painterly mark in his graphic work. Included here is the artist's very first professional print Enter Laughing, produced in 1964, when Hodgkin was one of 25 young artists invited to make screenprints with the master printer Chris Prater of Kelpra Studio, London. Between 1966 and 1968 Hodgkin created several lithographs with Editions Alecto and in the early seventies, working with Maurice Payne at Petersburgh Press, he was introduced to intaglio printing processes, such as etching and aquatint, a practice further honed with master printer Jack Shirreff at 107 Workshop.Hodgkin has described printmaking as an alternative, and an escape, from the solitude of the studio. Making prints necessarily involves the participation of other people, it also invites experimentation.

 As a painter, Hodgkin builds layer upon layer of expressive and vivid colour; printmaking, as such, is not a departure for the artist but a natural extension of his own tendency toward accumulation. In painting and print alike, the artist’s mark-making is emotional and gestural. Hodgkin has even made a feature of hand-colouring many of the prints – providing,  Pat Gilmour explains, a

solution for achieving something comparable to the energy, intensity and saturation of his paintings.[1]

Akin to Hodgkin's painting process, printmaking calls upon the artist to be both slow and spontaneous; he works in multiple layers - an accumulation of brushstrokes and mark-making, of plates and vivid colours – to create a rich and expressive image.

 Although there is a temptation to read Hodgkin's bold, gelid swathes of colour as abstraction, the images are in fact firmly rooted in emotion-rich experience, and memories, drawn from the artist's own life. Hodgkin has described his subject matter as 'simple and straightforward':

It ranges from views trough windows, landscapes, occasional still lifes, to memories of holidays, encounters with interiors and art collections, other people, other bodies, love affairs, sexual encounters and emotional situations of all kinds, even eating [2]

Howard Hodgkin, by his own definition, paints representational pictures of emotional situations. With events and emotions recalled and re-presented as spatial and formal experiments, it is a language of layering and of vivid accumulation well served by the painterly print.

Katrina Schwarz

[1] Pat Gilmour, 'Howard Hodgkin', The Print Collectors' Newsletter, vol. XII, March - April 1981, p.3

[2] Interview with John Tusa, BBC Radio 3, May 2000