It has been raining furiously today, which sparked a glimmer of a thought about Howard Hodgkin’s notable painting ‘Rain’ 1984-9. In fact, Hodgkin has been on my mind lately as I have fallen back in love with oil paint! I tend to start my paintings with acrylic to build up 3D textures, which really benefits works like ‘Pavlova’ or ‘Eclair’, when I want to evoke the appearance of cream or meringue for example. But oil has been speaking to me recently. I love its natural glossiness and it looks great when applied in an impasto manner, although I have been reluctant to do so until now, as it feels rather gluttonous squeezing vast quantities of paint onto my palette, but it’s certainly worth it for delicious effect!
Anyway, I always wondered how Hodgkin achieves such a sensuous feeling of rain in this painting – and realised today, in the midst of my own practise, that the oil paint allows for this translucent layering of colour. Furthermore the richness and depth of colour gives the swathes of paint an ethereal, dreamlike quality. Like all of his works, ‘Rain’ seeks to capture the feeling of his experience. Here we see abstract blocks of colour framed by grey and blue streaks, which are reminiscent of clouds. The bands of colour in the centre are redolent of a fractured rainbow struggling to consolidate in the storm. Through the richness of colour and application of paint, he turns an ordinary scene into something charged with emotion, feeling and positivity – which is certainly elevated through the medium of oil. Hodgkin invites you to literally and metaphorically dance in the rain.