Hume @ White Cube, Hoxton Square


The White Cube galleries on Hoxton Square and Mason’s Yard are hosting ‘The Indifferent Owl’, an exhibition showing new work by Gary Hume. I went down to the Hoxton Square gallery to take a look and was met by a display of natural and childish imagery in hues of pinks, greens and yellows.

What struck me most about the display was the use of block colour and lack of tonal variation. Colour was placed in-between pronounced ridge, three-dimensional outlines, reminding me of glass painting as a child, and also of painting by numbers. Each piece seemed to have one focal colour, whether it is black in The Playground or green in Migration. The basic colour scheme reflects the subject matter: three young girls in Six Poles which could easily be dolls are all purple with different coloured braids made up of bright primary colours of thick childlike brush strokes.

As well as these paintings, there is also a sculpture in the middle of the gallery space. Constructed out of stone is what looks like a wooden branch, or a tree. It follows on from the natural world featured in the paintings, of birds and shades of greens and blues. Inside the sculpture is an orange ball, possibly signifying life, maybe a kind of fruit or a seed. Upstairs are the seven colours of the rainbow in a fragmented form, which again leads me to think about possible influence from infancy.

The show is unique yet vague. I do not know quite what to make of it. I did not dislike it, but I’m not in love with it either. The use of basic colours and form are somewhat endearing but it is unclear what kind of message the artist is trying to convey. It is ambiguous, what exactly is the symbolism of the simple colour scheme or the natural imagery? How does it relate to the depiction of the playground and the girls? While this show won’t provide you with answers, these paintings, which first appear simple and a little juvenile, will make you think and should not be dismissed.

The Indifferent Owl will be on display at the White Cube Hoxton Square and Mason’s Yard galleries until February 25

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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