From his breakthrough Door paintings to his most recent work, Gary Hume has harnessed the aesthetic power of symmetry. Double Bloom introduces three new paintings of flowers that play with balance, repetition—and the importance of “how things meet.”

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
The River, 2020
Gloss paint on aluminium
151 × 214 cm
59 1/2 × 84 1/4 inches

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Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
The River, 2020
Gloss paint on aluminium
151 × 214 cm
59 1/2 × 84 1/4 inches

Gary Hume
The River, 2020
Gloss paint on aluminium
151 × 214 cm
59 1/2 × 84 1/4 inches

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
The River, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
The River, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
The River, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
The River, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
The River, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
The River, 2020 (detail)

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The River beguiles the viewer with its playful sense of space and surprising symmetry. Two pairs of flowers, linked together by their stems, move in different directions above and below the stark horizon that bisects the painting. If the horizon divides the painting into earth and sky and thus invites us to read the painting as a landscape, the surreal presence of the flowers defies that interpretation. Is the strip of green The River or the shore? The painting alternates between a flat, symmetrical pattern and a landscape without settling into a single identity. Heraclitus famously said you could never step into the same river twice, suggesting that eternal change is the essence of the world. But the symmetry of The River resists the flow of narrative, conjuring an abstract pictorial space that suspends time, luring the viewer into a frozen moment of internal dynamism and repetitive rhythms.

 

“Painting itself is a still thing, and I just love that. There’s a moment of stillness—even if it’s a Jackson Pollock—there’s a stillness that I completely adore. That’s why I find narrative problematic — it equals time. I like the fact that painting is just as is: save as.” – Gary Hume

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020
Gloss and matt on prepared aluminum
214 × 151 cm
84 1/4 × 59 1/2 inches

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Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Dream, 1991
Gloss paint on aluminium panel
208 × 140 cm
82 × 55 1/8 inches

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Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020
Gloss and matt on prepared aluminum
214 × 151 cm
84 1/4 × 59 1/2 inches

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020
Gloss and matt on prepared aluminum
214 × 151 cm
84 1/4 × 59 1/2 inches

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
Two Flowers, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Dream, 1991
Gloss paint on aluminium panel
208 × 140 cm
82 × 55 1/8 inches

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Dream, 1991 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Dream, 1991 (detail)

Gary Hume
Dream, 1991 (detail)

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Flowers have been a mainstay of Hume’s oeuvre for nearly 30 years. Deployed by artists as symbols of transience and mortality for millennia, Hume’s recent flower paintings alter that tradition, creating instead a Warholian space of repetition and symmetry. Hume’s Door paintings, his breakthrough as an artist, have a Warholian quality: an everyday thing (a pair of hospital doors) is transformed into an image almost indistinguishable from the real object. Hume then renders the doors into a painting that is both beautiful and uncanny. Look at Dream (1991): the blues, creams and blacks have an industrial, everyday quality, yet the painting itself possesses a pleasing balance and symmetry. If the double doors are at once immediately recognizable as architecture, they are also geometric abstractions. The symmetrical structure inevitably brings to mind a human face—if not an abstracted skull.

 

In this short video, Gary Hume discusses his painting Two Flowers, the idea of a “Warhol repeat” and the importance of “how things meet.”

 

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Three Leaf Clovers, 1994
Gloss paint on panel
241 × 155 cm
94 7/8 × 61 inches

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Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Four Feet in the Garden, 1995
Gloss paint on aluminium
221 × 172 cm
87 × 67 3/4 inches

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Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Andy Warhol
Rorschach, 1984
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
417.2 x 292.1 cm
164 1/4 x 115 inches
© 2020 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Throughout the 1990s, after abandoning his Doors in 1993, Hume expanded his subject matter while continuing to experiment with symmetry and repetition. Two Three Leaf Clovers (1994), with its two heads of clover interlocked like lovers embracing, in many ways foretells the recent group of “double” flower paintings. One of Hume’s more iconic paintings from this period, Four Feet in a Garden (1995), pleasantly bewilders the viewer with its forceful symmetry. Iwona Blazwick, in her essay for the artist’s monograph Cat in a Lap (2009), discusses how surface and depth, ground and image, are intertwined in this painting, comparing it to both a Rorschach test and to the artist’s Door paintings. Blazwick’s observation holds true for Hume’s recent flower paintings as well, and in fact all three of the flower paintings might bring to mind one of Warhol’s Rorschach works from the mid 1980s, such as the large-scale gold Rorschach (1984) in the collection of MoMA, New York. Hume and Warhol share a deadpan wit, and an interest in how beauty, horror, psychology and politics intertwine.

Details
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Three Leaf Clovers, 1994
Gloss paint on panel
241 × 155 cm
94 7/8 × 61 inches

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Three Leaf Clovers, 1994 (detail)

Gary Hume
Two Three Leaf Clovers, 1994 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Three Leaf Clovers, 1994 (detail)

Gary Hume
Two Three Leaf Clovers, 1994 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Four Feet in the Garden, 1995
Gloss paint on aluminium
221 × 172 cm
87 × 67 3/4 inches

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Four Feet in the Garden, 1995 (detail)

Gary Hume
Four Feet in the Garden, 1995 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Four Feet in the Garden, 1995 (detail)

Gary Hume
Four Feet in the Garden, 1995 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Andy Warhol
Rorschach, 1984
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
417.2 x 292.1 cm
164 1/4 x 115 inches
© 2020 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Details
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Throughout the 1990s, after abandoning his Doors in 1993, Hume expanded his subject matter while continuing to experiment with symmetry and repetition. Two Three Leaf Clovers (1994), with its two heads of clover interlocked like lovers embracing, in many ways foretells the recent group of “double” flower paintings. One of Hume’s more iconic paintings from this period, Four Feet in a Garden (1995), pleasantly bewilders the viewer with its forceful symmetry. Iwona Blazwick, in her essay for the artist’s monograph Cat in a Lap (2009), discusses how surface and depth, ground and image, are intertwined in this painting, comparing it to both a Rorschach test and to the artist’s Door paintings. Blazwick’s observation holds true for Hume’s recent flower paintings as well, and in fact all three of the flower paintings might bring to mind one of Warhol’s Rorschach works from the mid 1980s, such as the large-scale gold Rorschach (1984) in the collection of MoMA, New York. Hume and Warhol share a deadpan wit, and an interest in how beauty, horror, psychology and politics intertwine.

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015
Gloss paint on aluminium panel
122 × 78 × 2.1 cm each panel
48 × 30 3/4 × 7/8 inches each panel

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Details
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015
Gloss paint on aluminium panel
122 × 78 × 2.1 cm each panel
48 × 30 3/4 × 7/8 inches each panel

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015 (detail)

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015 (detail)

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015 (detail)

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015 (detail)

Gary Hume
Double Exposure, 2015 (detail)

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Double Exposure (2015), a diptych of delicate roses, recalls another touchstone for Hume: the work of Ellsworth Kelly. Celebrated for his geometric abstractions and broad swathes of color, the artist was also an exquisite draftsperson, and Hume especially prizes his drawings of plants and flowers. Kelly, who was drawn to Chinese painting and calligraphy, talked about a subject being “caught in the process of becoming abstract.” The description is apt for both Hume and the impulse behind many classical Chinese paintings. Look at the defined and elegant lines of Ma Lin’s Orchid (c. 1250), for instance. Depicted without a context, abstracted from their environment, and in a negative space that asserts itself as a palpable substance, the orchids appear suspended in a medium beyond time. The ink-on-silk painting is reminiscent of a work such as Kelly’s Lillies (1980), not to mention Hume’s delicate handling of line in Double Exposure and the recent “double” flower paintings.

 

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Ma Lin
Orchids, c. 1240
26.5 x 22.5 cm
10 7/16 x 8 7/8 inches
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Ellsworth Kelly
Lilies, 1980
Graphite on paper 
76 x 56 cm
30 x 22 1/8 inches
Courtesy Matthew Marks

 

While discussing the painting Two Flowers, Hume mentions the fundamental importance of “how things meet” in both painting and “all of life.” On one level, then, this is a formal concern for the artist: How do shapes and colors interact, how do balance, symmetry and repetition contribute to the overall effect of the painting? On another level, “how things meet” is about dialogue and intimacy. Painting itself, and the emotion and energy that it conveys, becomes a metaphor for the connections we make between ourselves and others.

The Mannerist Bronzino is a longtime favorite of Hume’s, and you can see how he would admire his clear and delineated forms. Yet the artists also share a deep sensuality, and a capacity to conjure intimate connections between the figures they portray. The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint, in London’s National Gallery, depicts Mary and the Christ child suspended forever in a moment just before their faces touch.

Hume invokes a similar mood of intimacy in each of the three paintings featured in Double Bloom. In The River, the flowers are at once separated by the strong bar of the horizon, yet the interlinked blooms reflect each other, and reflect upon each other. The vertical energy of Two Flowers creates a tender connection between the blooms, as if they were lovers’ heads on a bed. Two Blooms, Grey Fields conveys a rich emotional life. There is at once a melancholy in the ragged space between the two flowers, as well as a powerful sense of longing and affection. As with Bronzino’s mother and child, the flowers are suspended forever, loving yet hesitant, on the verge of an intimate connection.

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Bronzino
The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Elizabeth, c. 1540
Oil on wood
101.6 x 81.3 cm
40 x 32 inches
National Gallery, London

Details
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Bronzino
The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Elizabeth, c. 1540
Oil on wood
101.6 x 81.3 cm
40 x 32 inches
National Gallery, London

While discussing the painting Two Flowers, Hume mentions the fundamental importance of “how things meet” in both painting and “all of life.” On one level, then, this is a formal concern for the artist: How do shapes and colors interact, how do balance, symmetry and repetition contribute to the overall effect of the painting? On another level, “how things meet” is about dialogue and intimacy. Painting itself, and the emotion and energy that it conveys, becomes a metaphor for the connections we make between ourselves and others.

The Mannerist Bronzino is a longtime favorite of Hume’s, and you can see how he would admire his clear and delineated forms. Yet the artists also share a deep sensuality, and a capacity to conjure intimate connections between the figures they portray. The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint, in London’s National Gallery, depicts Mary and the Christ child suspended forever in a moment just before their faces touch.

Hume invokes a similar mood of intimacy in each of the three paintings featured in Double Bloom. In The River, the flowers are at once separated by the strong bar of the horizon, yet the interlinked blooms reflect each other, and reflect upon each other. The vertical energy of Two Flowers creates a tender connection between the blooms, as if they were lovers’ heads on a bed. Two Blooms, Grey Fields conveys a rich emotional life. There is at once a melancholy in the ragged space between the two flowers, as well as a powerful sense of longing and affection. As with Bronzino’s mother and child, the flowers are suspended forever, loving yet hesitant, on the verge of an intimate connection.

Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020
Gloss paint on aluminium
151 × 214 cm
59 1/2 × 84 1/4 inches

More Views
Details
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020
Gloss paint on aluminium
151 × 214 cm
59 1/2 × 84 1/4 inches

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020
Gloss paint on aluminium
151 × 214 cm
59 1/2 × 84 1/4 inches

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume – Double Bloom
Gary Hume – Double Bloom

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020 (detail)

Gary Hume
Two Blooms, Grey Fields, 2020 (detail)

Details
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“I feel very much that a painting works when I’m not involved with it anymore: that’s when a painting is finished, when it doesn’t care what I think and it’s very satisfied with its own state. So I’m as much of a viewer of them once they’re finished, because I don’t know who they are—they really are like they’ve always existed and they are real people—even the flowers.” – Gary Hume