David Hockney: The Versatile Hand
Celebrating as well the artist’s 80th birthday, the museum is exhibiting more than 160 paintings, photos, engravings, video installations and drawings focusing on Hockney’s artistic evolution. The first part of the show unveils his initial steps where he centered on the city’s urban landscape, particularly on industrial architecture. While attending the art college in Bedford, his paintings were deeply influenced by the Kitchen Sink School and realism, subject that has prevailed in his canvases over the years.
Nonetheless, if he emulated the movement’s color palette – black, red and gray mostly – his creations soon became more vivid. Yet, another element producing a transformation in Hockney’s style was the retrospective in 1960 devoted to Pablo Picasso. His versatile compositions convinced the artist of the incommensurable potential of painting, he needn’t to espouse a sole style as he could embrace them all.
Enthusiastic about this new approach, Hockney embarked in a journey to America that revolutionized once more his painting. The American way of life – the country’s relaxed ambiance and counter culture – impulsed Hockney to more hedonistic hedonistic subjects such as in Domestic Scene, Los Angeles (1963) where two young man take a shower together. Moving to the West Coast his style transfigured into more geometrical configurations where form, either human or landscape belonged to the realm of painting. The intensity and clarity of the Californian light was also investigated during this period, its refraction on water bodies mainly pools sought the birth of iconic works such as Bigger Splash (1967) or Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972), and more.
The perspective in his paintings became linear as in Renaissance canvases with precise vanishing points, imitating reality turned into an obsession. Moreover, presumably the artist became more interested in photography and its mimetic ability. He created what he named “joiners”, a mosaic of polaroids joined together. Although known as a painter, the exhibition sheds light on the artist’s early interest in new technologies.
From this point on, space and its pictorial representation were steadily investigated in Hockney’s artistic practice, his canvas Looking at Pictures on a Screen (1977) is a brilliant mise en abyme were the spectator observes an inner spectator observing paintings from diverse artists like Vermeer, Van Gogh and Piero della Francesca. Evoking art’s heritage, Hockney’s interest in human vision as well as reality’s representation became more distinct commanding the decades work. To unravel the slightest details registered in man’s eye and to reproduce them was the creator’s ambition, paintings such as Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) or Contre-jour in the French Style (Against the Day dans le Style Français), (1974) bears witness of this argument.
Nevertheless, after the linear rigidity, Hockney’s oeuvre in the 1980’s and 1990’s frees form transfiguring the pictorial space into two dimensional. Henri Matisse vibrant colours supplant the diluted tones utilised by the artist, landscapes and nature take over his oeuvre and joyously celebrate Mother Earth. The 4 seasons, time lost and found, transform into a recurrent narrative that the artist keeps expanding currently. Continuing with this everlasting interest in technology, he employed the Ipad to create more sophisticated drawings.
David Hockney’s exhibition is an in-depth study of one of the most prolific contemporary artists ever to date. His positive stance on technology open doors to art making it evolve and touch new heights.
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