Wednesday, 1 July 2009

david hockney

I spent much of last night having disturbing dreams about blogging about David Hockney after watching an illuminating documentary last night about his most recent work. Hockney has always been a little secretive about his work, but this programme followed him for three years between 2004 and 2008 during which he allowed himself to be filmed working, much of which was painting on location in the Yorkshire Wolds. I think that by making his processes more transparent, Hockney's work really came to life. Watching him painting with such confidence and gusto in the middle of the November countryside was nothing short of inspiring. I just want to jump in the car and go somewhere remote with a canvas and some paints and not care if it's going to work or not.

I dunno, some people think Hockney's work is a pile of rubbish but I think that a better understanding of his reasoning makes it more valuable. To be sure, he's got bags of confidence and doesn't care what others think, but it seemed to me that he has a genuine impulse to create art, not just some egotistical, money-making piece of junk. Whether you like the result or not is immaterial, really - here is a man who is possessed by his inquisitiveness about the way in which we interact visually with the world and probes his ideas through painting, that's the heart of it. I enjoyed the way in which he talked about how the human eye can't be replaced by the camera, and how painting is all about the artist in an environment, standing there and looking at it. I think his work throughout his life has been about different ways of 'looking' and how we represent what we see - whether it's through a lens, with a paintbrush or, most recently, drawing on computer.

Field of Bales

Ripening Wheat

I liked the watercolour sketches he painted, executed with his lack of and disregard for traditional technique. He used the paints however he liked, more drawing than painting with them, and the resulting images have quite a pleasant naïveté. His magnificent oil paintings followed from this, culminating in that edificial multi-canvas artwork, Bigger Trees near Warter (no, that's not a typo, it's just a place in Yorkshire where they spell things funny), that was shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2008. I think if I'd had watched this film before seeing the work, I'd have appreciated it a lot more.

The Road to Thwing

Bigger Trees near Warter


  1. OMG You are actually psychic!!!! I watched this documentary too (entirely by accident) and thought about posting something on FB.

    Maybe it was the whole Yorkshire thing, but I adored his landscapes-particularly the big tree one-I'd love to see it in London. Its the kind of art I actually don't mind paying to see-stuff that is grand and you couldn't hang in your living room (not that I could afford a Hockney!).

    I never really thought much about him until I saw the program, but it was just amazing to see him painting on roadsides like where I grew up and people asking him if he could decorate their pub!

    I wish I could be that cool in my 70s!

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