Arabian Sea2008 by Howard Hodgkin

A large part of the artist's oeuvre has been the practice of painting on/over framed canvases of all shapes and styles as pictured in this highly evocative work "Arabian Sea." As far as I can ascertain, incorporating the frame into the picture as an integral part of the composition is "innovative" and in a sense "novel." Traditionally the "frame" has been a "containment" mechanism used to separate and differentiate the created art "image" from its surrounding environment. There is a whole history of framing, showing the development of the "idea" of framing from inception to its present modern counterparts. The key concept was usually the "embellishment" or "protection" of the "precious" painting and sometimes to such a degree that the frames became massive works of art in themselves, often holding symbolic power due to the materials and structure of their design being conversant with the contained image.

The interesting thing to note here is that initially the frame and picture were one item carved from the same piece of wood starting somewhere in the 12th-13th century, and because this process was expensive to carry out it was abandoned and so the manufacture of elaborately crafted frames as separate items sprang up and became an industry in itself.

It seems to me that Howard Hodgkin essentially is the first modern artist to return to this old tradition of seeing the picture and frame as requisite parts of the "one" thing and I'm not sure whether he's done this knowingly or unwittingly. The difference is very contemporary and "transgressive," in that he went one step further and painted the frame also as if it was part of the composition. If we look around we can clearly see that the vast majority of cheap factory frames today are used to "delineate" the edge of the artist's composition and direct the viewer's gaze into the central square, rectangle or oval, becoming for the most part demarcation devices. The point I want to make here is that Howard Hodgkin has literally made the frame his own and created a new way for contemporary audiences to 'view" or "consider" what a painting is or can be by violating the traditional function of "frame" or "boundary!" (http://www.williambootartist.com/blog/howard-hodgkins-beautiful-allusions)
Click to select the cover image for this artwork.
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