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Sir Howard Hodgkin was one of the leading figures of British art to dominate the PostWar period. His production spanned over five decades and included paintings as well as printmaking. Perhaps more recognisably and vocally than any artist at the time did Hodgkin espouse printmaking as a practice to be developed in tandem with his paintings. In Hodgkin’s art, painting and printmaking come together through highly gestural, expressionist and manneristic works that carry within themselves the texture and force of paint brush strokes. Two’s Company, made by the artist between 2002 and 2003, is a series of works where Hodgkin’s distinctive printmaking technique best comes to life.
The series includes two works made from the same set of two copper plates and one plastic plate - Two’s Company (A) and Two’s Company (B). Upon printing the colours onto the sheets of paper, the artist added hand coloured cobalt blue, bone black and cyan acrylic. In Two’s Company (A), the deep blue and black hues predominate, giving the artwork a more sombre look reminiscent of underwater flora. In Two’s Company (B) the artist resorted to a broader mix of colours, using red, yellow and cobalt blue for a more bright and energetic effect. In both works, Hodgkin’s mannerist brushstroke is evident, and endows the works with a liveliness and movement, attesting to the artist’s investment in the printmaking process.
This haptic and tactile quality, instantly reminiscent of paint pastes applied on fresh canvases, was achieved by the artist through recourse to carborundum, which allows to add texture and relief to the image, mimicking the effect of paint. Hodgkin’s prints are easily distinguishable because of his repeated appeal to this technique, to which he was introduced by Jack Shirreff. Working together at 107 Workshop, Shirreff and Hodgkin created most of the artist’s prints, joined by their mutual interest in the use of colour in print, which at the time was widely underused in printmaking. The colourful and painterly quality evident within this series sets Hodgkin’s prints apart from any coeval production.