The thread that links today’s painting by Howard Hodgkin, to yesterday’s by Rose Wylie is memory. Both artists are known for an unmistakable and unflinching approach to an art which draws deeply from the corners of personal experience – mixing references to film, literature and art history with fragments of remembered situations, often only loosely tethered to the original memory, yet filled with the intimacy of emotional connection. In Howard’s case the emotive timbre ran at a permanently high pitch, and yet for all the joyousness of his palette, not to mention the occasionally upbeat title as appears here, his work was almost always touched by a kind of delicious melancholy.
Howard also looms very large on a personal level, in terms of our memory of the early days of the gallery. Before we had even opened the doors, and long before we had any sort of track record, we wrote to him to ask whether he would consider an exhibition at the gallery we were trying to open in Edinburgh. I came across his reply in our archive recently: “I like Edinburgh, and no one has ever asked me to make an exhibition there, so why not?” And so we showed his work at the 1998 Edinburgh Festival, our second exhibition, and one which gave us a level of instant credibility that we certainly didn’t deserve. We owe him a huge debt.