Beauty makes me be still. That’s why the making of beautiful things attracts me.’
As a major painting retrospective opens at Tate Britain (June 5 – September 1), Gary Hume remains meticulously focused on the process of making work, ‘I’m more and more fascinated in my own work,’ he explains. ‘I work from 10am until about 9pm but it’s not an obsession, it’s a pleasure. There’s never enough time.’
Within a year of leaving Goldsmiths College in the late 1980s, Gary Hume achieved international recognition as part of the new generation of Young British Artists, or YBAs. Rather than feeling restricted by this definition, Hume considers this group of artists to have been a considerable source of motivation and support over the past 25 years. He remains close to Sarah Lucas, and his East London studio is next door to Gavin Turk.
Hume’s bold, large-scale paintings use household gloss paint to create huge swathes of colour and seductively reflective surfaces. Often working within traditional genres such as the nude, the portrait, the garden and images from childhood, Hume’s choice of color and fragmentation of the image to near abstraction, frequently subvert more conventional forms of beauty.
Hume was keen to show his lesser-known works at Tate Britain, rather than simply a ‘greatest hits’ collection of celebrity portraits and his infamous mid-1990s life-size sequence of gloss-painted doors. Despite their smooth, glossy appearance, Hume insists that beneath the surface, ‘There is life, death, politics, sex, desire and loss – all in there.’