London’s Tate Modern is taking a retrospective look at one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.
Widely regarded as one of the founding figures of pop art, Richard Hamilton experimented and innovated throughout a career spanning 60 years.
The show explores the evolution of his art from early designs to his final paintings in 2011.
“Later on in the eighties, I think he felt that there’d been a shift in British culture, that that optimism he felt at the beginning of the fifties and through to the sixties had sort of not played out. There was a sense of disappointment at what life in the eighties was like. And that was the moment where he made ‘Treatment Room’, where the figure of Margaret Thatcher appears,” says the exhibition’s curator Mark Godfrey.
Featuring a video of Margaret Thatcher playing over a hospital bed in a bleak room, the installation was seen as a critique of Thatcher’s Britain and what many perceived as an assault on the National Health Service.
‘Shock and Awe’, Hamilton’s powerful political image of Tony Blair as an apocalyptic cowboy has pride of place in the show, which also includes a number of Polaroids and portraits, as well as a picture of a detainee in the Maze Prison during the troubles in Northern Ireland.
Writer and art critic William Feaver feels the exhibition demonstrates Hamilton’s unique approach to art.
“It’s like coming back into a kind of encyclopedic reunion of work that’s almost entirely Richard’s idea of how things are represented in the 20th, early 21st centuries and how in art most things are a kind of digestive process. He takes other people’s art, he turns it to his own account, he makes very ingenious, clever, witty, sarcastic, fan-club images out of things which have caught his eye,” Feaver said.
Far from simply referencing popular culture in his work, Hamilton addressed wider contemporary and political issues, with the aim of showing how media transformed information.
‘Richard Hamilton’ runs at London’s Tate Modern until May 16.