Flashbacks bring art works to life for Hume’s exhibition

Artist Gary Hume with his exhibition
Artist Gary Hume with his exhibition
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Gary Hume was one of the Young British Artists who emerged from the Freeze exhibition. Nick Ahad spoke to him about a new show in Leeds.

Last year, when Leeds Art Gallery played host to the work of Damien Hirst, the counters on the entrance doors to the venue were unable to keep up with the sheer number of people coming to see the exhibition.

Gary Hume, a Young British Artist who exhibited in the 1998 Freeze exhibition curated by Hirst and which launched the YBA group, suspects the door counter will not be faced with similar trouble when his exhibition opens at the venue today.

“I’m not interested in being a ‘famous artist’, that all seems like quite a lot of hassle,” he says. “I want my work to be seen by people, of course, but I am much more interested in being respected than in being ‘famous’.”

While the opening weekend of Hume’s exhibition might not see the same volume of visitors as those attracted by the likes of Hirst, arguably the most famous contemporary British artist, it’s easy to imagine that once word gets out Hume’s exhibition will be very well attended.

Most famous for his paintings of hospital and barn doors, both of which can be seen in the Leeds exhibition, Hume has had a quieter career than some of his contemporaries. This shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a less successful career, simply that he has perhaps not shouted quite as loudly about his work as some of the others who emerged from Freeze.

The Goldsmith’s graduate is exhibiting in Leeds for the first time, despite family connections to Yorkshire, and has had a hands-on role in pulling the exhibition together with curator Sarah Brown.

The show features work that spans most of Hume’s career, from work made as recently as last year to his 1994 piece Moonbeam Rising.

While Sarah Brown agrees the exhibition looks like a highlight film of Hume’s career, the artist himself thinks of it as a flashback.

“I was thinking about what the title of this exhibition should be, how it should be described, I didn’t think it was a retrospective, but I didn’t know what it was,” says Hume.

“When we were working out how to hang the exhibition, when I touched certain pieces, particularly the older ones, I had flashbacks to the time when I was creating the pieces and had this really strong sense of remembering exactly how I felt and what I was thinking when I first painted the piece.

“It was actually quite eerie how powerful that sense was when I touched some of the pieces. Being in contact with them took me very vividly back to when I first decided to create them. Seeing them in this fantastic space is incredibly evocative to me,” he said.

The exhibition of Hume’s work is the latest in a series of high-profile exhibitions, stretching from Moore, to Hirst, held at Leeds Art Gallery over the past few years and should cement its increasingly impressive reputation.

Timeline for Gary Hume

Gary Hume is a Turner Prize nominated artist who represented Britain at the Sao Paulo and Venice Biennales in the Nineties. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 2001.

Hume is one of only two painters to emerge from the infamous Freeze exhibition, the other, Fiona Wray, will be exhibiting at Leeds Art Gallery later this year.

Following Freeze, he also played a part in Sensation, the controversial and significant exhibition organized by Charles Saatchi in 1997.

Gary Hume: Flashback, Leeds Art Gallery, to April 15.