An Artist in Residence
An Artist in Residence
Oxford’s artist in residence scheme began in 1975, funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain in partnership with a college and it was operated in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art, now Modern Art Oxford. Howard Hodgkin was attached to Brasenose College 1975-1976.
Foy Nissen’s Bombay is a
small painting on wood (size 71.1 x 91.5cm) which I began in 1975 and brought
with me to Oxford when I became artist in residence at Brasenose. The college
provided me with a studio, a former school room in Shoe Lane, and there, with
several other pictures, it hung on the damp white-washed brick wall waiting to
be finished. My studio was tall with windows above the sight level of children
sitting at desks and a vaguely Gothic raftered ceiling. The room was chilly and
rather dark in the winter, but spatially inspiring and uniquely for me a studio
in a truly urban setting, as it was just behind Woolworth’s. The studio floor
was covered with discarded Turkish carpets of large design on which small
armchairs were stranded here and there and drifts of flaking white-wash
Howard Hodgkin in his studio in Shoe Lane, Oxford, 1976
The experience of being an artist
resident at Brasenose was difficult only in the sense that one h dot plan ahead
in ways that I was not used to. Should one dine in or not – how about lunch?
Links of communication had to be kept open. Meanwhile I would sit in one or other
of the armchairs looking at a line of stubbornly autonomous pictures demanding
completion, often feeling rather cold and undecided, thinking of my forthcoming
show in New York. The fascination of some of the people I found to talk to, or
rather to talk to me, and the other more obvious diversions of Oxford,
sometimes interrupted my concentrated effort of memory as I thought about the
view down the length of Foy’s living room in Bombay overlooking a balcony
consciously covered with beautiful plants in an apartment block called Olympus.
Foy himself is no longer in the picture as the gradual substitution of pictorial devices took place and the picture became something else instead.
It was the first picture I finished in Oxford and because of this became rather a totem, and for a long time it was the only picture complete enough to talk about to other people. Showing it to the Pater Society (some of whom talked eloquently about pictorial space) was an agony clearly shared by the audience. Eventually the picture was removed from the row of paintings on the wall and taken to London, where it was bought by the Arts Council.
Being an artist in residence at Brasenose was immensely valuable to me as a painter: I have never otherwise found such perfectly difficult working conditions or such amazing company. But in return I was both inadequate and mistaken: becoming involved in the question of the cleaning of the Chapel roof for example; and I regret giving only one party. But I would like to thank everyone involved for what turned out to be a very one-sided arrangement.