Sixty years of David Hockney’s work was commemorated by Tate Britain this spring-summer. Whether you were a long time lover or a first time interest, each person was able to experience the artist’s’ journey through his artistic career, observing his every thought, concerning perspective and representation in each one of his experiments while also appreciating the beautiful skill his creations have in the process.
This exhibition was a thinking piece about how one can truly represent things fully from the three dimensional world into artwork while being limited to the constraints of a two dimensional medium without eliminating the essence and beauty of our vision in the process. He keeps personality by abstracting, making things aesthetically beautiful with great composition, and experimentation. In this exhibition you will see the mindset and the evolution of one of the great painters of our time.
Within these twelve rooms, one of the main focuses for him are abstraction, particularly with water. Personally, when I think of Hockney I think of his wonderful pool painting, a time in Hockney’s career where he was displaying beautiful scenes with a sense of sunniness, tranquility and beauty of the Los Angeles life. The way he represents water is through abstraction. In Peter Gets Out of Nick’s Pool (1966), he paints the delightful transient reflections of the swimming pool’s surface, probably taking some inspiration from Bridget Riley, an op artist at the time. He uses an abstract way of painting, (interweaving squiggly lines and colour) to create the illusion of reflections off the water. In one of his more famous pieces, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972), he uses the nature of the pool again to blur and abstract the identity of one of the people in his painting. It shows someone observing the swimmer, abstracting any characterisation we may put upon him.
Finally, I enjoyed the abstraction and geometric representation that he presented in Room 4. Especially in in A Lawn Sprinkler (1967). He uses simple shapes to create overly simplistic caricatures of the LA architecture and lifestyle. At this period he is interested in people and nature coinciding, having that element in humanity either man made nature.
In the 1970’s, he began doing portraits that were naturalistic and realistically painted (they were referenced with photographs for accuracy). These were extremely characterised and staged to imply and tell a story about, usually, couples. Character was given to them through staging, composition and vivid colour. These are skillful staged portraits that really give a visual cue to represent people and their relationships with each other through staging. The paintings include, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-1), and My Parents (1977).
Although after this he eventually returned to the abstract from the and get away from super-naturalistic way of painting and have more freedom, he still tends to have a calling to represent something to the fullest degree, whether he has the skill for it or not, which is when he begins to be interested in a more natural landscape rather than a city one. In the exhibition, they say one person claimed that the Grand Canyon couldn’t be painted/drawn to capture all of its beauty, and what interests me is that Hockney was compelled to prove him wrong. It shows a desire to capture immense space within his artwork. We see this in A Bigger Grand Canyon (1998). Around this time was when he began his new interest for landscape art.
This leads me to an interesting turn in Hockney’s career, into photo-collages.
Thinking the photograph was ‘too flat’, much like the cubists before him with painting, he began to distort the photograph and make a unique kind of collage, which surprised many for a traditional painter. He managed to use photography in a way that gave the illusion of a 3D space within the confined space of the 2D photograph. He experimented with landscape as well as portraits with this technique. In The Scrabble Game (1983) for example, he presents a picture of his mother, of course, playing scrabble. Although the portraits are not trying to look realistic, the overlapping of several faces emoting differently gives you a sense of as well as movement which is intriguing and fluid. For his landscapes, (example Pearblossom Highway 1986) Hockney creates collages so that they are shaped in a way to make them appear to look the way our our eye naturally perceives our vision which is appealing and an interesting way to present photography.
In the last room, Hockney uses an even more unusual medium in his later years, his IPAD. Again, shocking to the art world for a traditional painter, something completely accessible and as we as we witness every step of the painting (the ipad records each mark) and witness these little mundane scenery from his bedroom or the comfort of his own home. Flowers, raining outside, sofa. Humble ends
He has gone from abstraction, the grand and beautiful explorations of staging and representation of beauty, and the 3D to 2D spaces experimentation. A great way to celebrate 60 years of David Hockney- this exhibition was a great way of learning about the incredible artist and the progression of his art throughout the years.