Friday 25 April, 2008
John Hoyland has been called Europe’s answer to Mark Rothko. On a visit to his London studio, Esther Walker discovers why the celebrated painter has turned to Robert Fisk of The Independent for inspiration in his latest artworks.
“I borrow anything from anything,” says the artist John Hoyland. “I’ll borrow from other people’s work, nature, flowers – anything.” In his latest exhibition, Greetings of Love, Hoyland borrows from a more unlikely source, perhaps: a photograph of blood-spatter on the floor of a hospital in Lebanon, accompanied by a piece, about the 33-day conflict in Lebanon and northern Israel in 2006, by The Independent’s Robert Fisk.
“I’ve always liked Robert Fisk’s writing and I admire him. I thought the piece that he had written was rather moving, and I looked at the photograph that went with it and it looked just like one of my paintings.” The piece, published in August 2007, was a reflection on the previous year’s war in Lebanon and, in part, a review of the book Double Blind by the Italian photographer Paolo Pellegrin.
Pellegrin’s picture, taken in Tyre’s main hospital, shows a large splash of blood on the black-and-white tiled floor of a hospital; the victim had been badly injured in an Israeli rocket attack on 6 August, 2006. “I hate wars,” reads Fisk’s piece. “I was thinking this over as I pawed through Double Blind, from which these photographs are taken. Its terrible, rage-filled, blood-spattered pages are an awful memory to me of last year’s war in Lebanon.”
The resulting work by Hoyland is a powerful, richly coloured image, with the artist’s trademark layers of thick paint, rivers of colour running down the canvas, and his nerve-cell-like central focus. But Hoyland insists that the piece is not deliberately political.
“I don’t see Lebanon as a political piece, although the title would indicate that. I was simply struck by the constant threat to people living in the Middle East and the sheer horror of the things that happen. I suppose my sympathies would always be with the victims and the underdog, so I suppose in that way it is political.”