Urban Portraits

The images in this section show us Humm’s witty observations on contemporary urban society, though he is not slow to observe that metrosexuals also go to the beach, provided of course that it’s exactly the right beach.

The paintings portray and critique the central London tribe of which Humm is a member. He looks at the aging searching for beautification from the young and at the young climbing the material ladder with the aging. It is, as he rightly observes, an eclectic, materialistic and totally superficial world that both of these groups inhabit.

We see how Humm uses mannequins and women interchangeably to emphasise the emptiness of this society. Thus the women are not sexy, but distant and shallow. The bright colours emphasise the flashiness and materialism.

The artist has chosen Jugendstil/Art Nouveau backgrounds for his paintings. Art Nouveau became famous for its decorative whiplash motifs, formed by dynamic, undulating, and flowing lines in a syncopated rhythm. Art Nouveau elaborated Pre-Raphaelite symbolism with pure designs, machined surfaces and new materials. During this time, Alphonse Mucha and later Toulouse Lautrec spearheaded the creation of commercial fine art posters.

There are echoes of Surrealism in these paintings, of the movement as a whole as much as the artists absolutely central to it. One of these is Paul Delvaux, who is particularly celebrated for his paintings of female nudes. Another immediately visible influence is Giorgio de Chirico, founder of the Italian Scuola Metsfysica. Chirico made much use of mannequins in some of his most characteristic compositions, and similar figures appear here too.

…text by Edward Lucie Smith October 2016