Thanks Jen Mazza for posting this link to novelist Colm Tóibín's 2006 Guardian interview with Howard Hodgkin. Apparently Hodgkin dislikes talking about his paintings and has never let anyone watch him work, so Tóibín's interview is fairly rare.
"The term colourist, Hodgkin says, has no meaning except in terms of very bad art. The idea of having a favourite colour irritates him. He believes that great nonsense is spoken about colour. Take red, he says. It is the colour of sunset, of tumescence, of blood, but it is also the colour of a pair of trousers. Just as blue can be the colour of your jacket. He has always thought of himself as a representational painter. There is no colour for its own sake; he is not involved in making decoration. The paintings arise from precise occasions, precise emotions. He begins work in the same way as a certain sort of novelist can operate. You suddenly find that a hidden memory, an event that is lost, carries with it an emotion.
"I ask if his interest in, say, Indian painting, arises from its flatness, its belief that a small plant or a tree could be given equal significance to the human presence in a painting. Patiently, he draws me two diagrams to show me how a painting is constructed, but he must realise that I can make no sense of them. He is, I think, irritated by my saying that there is a central figure in a painting and then a background and they are painted differently. He knows someone in the art world, he says, who met Margaret Thatcher at a party when she was prime minister. She could tell, Thatcher said, whether a painting was good or bad. How so, asked her interlocutor. Focal point, Thatcher said, means good painting. No focal point, bad painting. Howard Hodgkin laughs, having told the story. The idea of a focal point is rubbish, he says." Read more.
Incidentally, Jen Mazza's paintings are included in "Hysteria: Past Yet Present," a group show at Rutgers's Paul Robeson Gallery through April 9. From the press release: "Hysteria is a medical condition of non-specific origin, and its potency lies in its ambiguity - its fickle nature acts as a cloak of invisibility. The nuances of the hysterical condition defy convention, thus negating the usefulness of standard scientific approaches to the rigorous examination and cure of affected individuals. Hysteria is the earliest medical condition to be defined, and yet the precise nature of the disease remains elusive. The ever changing, mercurial nature of hysteria has never actually been pin pointed to a specific, or common, symptom set that remains constant over time within an identified group of diagnosed individuals. "