13 June 2013
Patrick Caulfield at Tate Britain
Tate Britain in its lower level galleries is showing retrospectives of Patrick Caulfield (1936–2005) and Gary Hume (1962- ) in parallel. Hume, Tate tells us, was one of the YBAs (Young British Artists) featured in the 1988 Freeze exhibition and is now “one of Britain’s most highly respected painters”. There are about 24 of his works on show, mostly gloss paint on aluminium sheet, including Tony Blackburn, first seen in 1993 at the Lucky Kunst show. Hume invented that show’s name according to Gregor Muir in his book - same title - on the rise and fall of YBA. However, it was Caulfield’s work that I wanted to see.
Caulfield was a contemporary of David Hockney and Peter Blake at the Royal College of Art in the early 1960s but despite this association (and being introduced to screenprinting by Richard Hamilton) rejected classification as a pop artist. As Clarrie Wallis (Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Tate) explains in her book about Caulfield for the British Artists series, he engaged with modern life but as part of the European artistic tradition, his work being influenced by Matisse, Gris, Dufy, Braque (Tate's own Braque Curtain 2005 above) and others, including Picasso (below). Looking at Caulfield’s interiors, it isn’t surprising to learn that the American artist he admired was Hopper, not Lichtenstein, despite their common use of black delineation of blocks of colour.
The Tate Britain exhibition is complemented by others at Waddington Custot and the Alan Cristea Gallery (both until 13 July). At the latter there is a chance to see Caulfield’s 1999 screenprint, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon vues de Derrière (above), which Wallis refers to but does not reproduce. I wish I had bought her book, which is an impressive explanation of the complexities of Caulfield’s work and his artistic development in terms accessible to the lay reader, before seeing the Tate show - therefore, ideally, another visit before it closes on 1 September.