Gary Hume: Door Paintings

Seemingly abstract compositions, rendered in high-gloss, commercial house paint, inspired by the institutional, swing doors of St. Bartholomew’s hospital in London’s East End. Till 31 August.
Modern Art Oxford, June 15 - Aug 31 2008

June 24, 2008

Open doors, swinging doors and melamine institutional doors all mark the early work of painter Gary Hume as variations on a theme colourfully demonstrating the inventive imagination of the artist. Doors are collaged in a montage for My Guernica, which works as a minimalist mosaic. The painted doors of Girl boy, boy girl poke faces out at the viewer if stared at long enough. Bright yellow doors entitled Shine resonate as the aluminium surface lifts the sunshine yellow paint; the exhibition culminates in black painting on black doors - what a journey.

The doors on display here - some made of MDF, some on canvas - originate from a template based on the port-holed double doors of a hospital ward at Bart's, London. The clinical feel of the doors' design and the sombre nature of the possible destination they temporarily veil is not lost on the viewer walking through Modern Art Oxford, where the painted doors are pinned against walls. Gloopy, glossy industrial interior paint is the medium here, spread so thickly at times that you can see the indentation of the paint brush and the flow of the brush stroke. Is this in the style of slapdash hospital handyman, or painterly artist? Some of the doors (Mushroom Door and Brown Door) are in anonymous domestic magnolia to please all. If stared at closely, it is the viewer’s own reflection that is seen emerging from the work, starkly staring out.

So, what lies behind those swinging hospital doors, and why has Hume chosen this motif as his theme? On revisiting the cheerful canary yellow of cheap garage flowers in Shine, the smell of slow grim death comes to me along with the overpowering feeling of helplessness that large institutions can imbue. And I hope I never find out what lies behind. My walk quickens as I exit through the doors of this fabulous exhibition, and I'm glad to leave, for it touches a nerve. Swing by before visiting times are over.

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