Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Richard Hamilton - the late works


What fascinated me most about these works by Richard Hamilton (at the National Gallery until January 13th, free) was his use of the computer. The artist has used software (Photoshop, Illustrator, CAD software?) to create vast models of realistic interiors varying from the Sainsbury Wing (above), hotel lobbies and his own homes. He has used the computer's ability to get perfect (geometric) perspective with the optical illusion that comes from rendering reflections of three dimensional shapes on a two dimensional surface.

The artist contributes much, choosing viewpoint and colour in the model and by adding painted components, frequently naked women, at aesthetically important places. Just obscure the two non-architectural objects in the image above and you will see how the picture loses balance.

The other illusion that Hamilton repeats here is painting-within-painting, where one picture reference another by having a copy of it hanging on the wall (for example). Again, the computer has been used to get perfect perspective, which to my mind, substantially improves the illusion.

That said, the aspect which preoccupied me on this short visit was the reflections of the hotel lobby in a mirrored square column, where the intricately patterned carpet and the pictures on the out-of-shot wall were rendered perfectly, so that one could imagine standing there in the actual lobby and being confused about the transparency/reflectiveness of the column and the precise shape of the architecture of the room(i.e. lobby) in which one was standing. I expect this is what interested Hamilton. He must have been in that lobby and seen the illusion that the mirrors create. It is this that he has recreated in these pictures. Well worth the visit, just for that.