David Hockney. review

Woods, digital experiment. Vivien Blackburn (old work)

Last night there was a fascinating programme, David Hockney: Imagine - did anyone else watch it?

He has been spending more time in his native Yorkshire and has fallen in love with painting plein air (how sensible! :>) ) and studying the changing light and seasons - exactly what interests me. I found myself agreeing with a lot of the ideas behind the work and thinking 'me too'. He articulates better though!

The programme concentrated, after a quick recap on his past work, on where he is now. He was shown working in the landscape in all weathers, faithful assistant setting up easels and canvasses and squeezing paint - oh how I'd like a faithful assistant!

He sometimes painted on multiple canvasses, stacked against easels to create one very large image. The largest of these was done for the Tate and is 40 feet long by 15 feet high, made up of 50 canvasses. He couldn't see the whole image until it was hung but got around the problem by photographing each canvas and looking at them joined up on the computer screen. Isn't technology useful?

It was of some trees and fields on a massive scale. The composition was great, sweeping lines, great shapes and tones - very striking. You can see it here and an article about it.

I find I often really like his compositions and the underlying thought processes - though his greens are sometimes too loud and unnatural for me - at other times they work beautifully.

He is happy to change his viewpoint slightly in his mind in the way of David Prentice. He will play a little with perspective, take a higher or lower viewpoint than in reality 'in your head you can be anywhere' he said - and 'it's important to be in it' .

He talked about Chinese scroll paintings and the Principle of Moving Focus - nothing like the concepts behind a lot of Western art. In Western art the traditional ideas of composition are about 'focal points' - somewhere that the eye rests and is drawn to. By contrast, the Principle of Moving Focus aims to take you on a journey, not stopping anywhere but constantly moving on. This is what I'm doing in some of my work - I often don't want a focal point, the work is about moving, travelling through. I need to look further into this concept.

I think my seascapes always work better with several hung - they then take you on a journey of changing light, seasons, weather, time of day. My Time and Tide series of tall thin canvasses were made to be hung grouped for this reason. He made the same comment about a series of his landscape canvasses when he saw them hung for an exhibition.

He revisited specific places through the seasons painting the changes - again something I like to do and something we are doing as a group on Watermarks

He quoted the Chinese as saying that Hand, Eye and Heart must all be engaged in a piece or it simply doesn't work. A simple sounding idea but so true. Without all 3, the work lacks that 'something' that makes it touch you.

I like the way he experiments, thinks in depth about subjects and tries unconventional methods as in his 'joiners' of the past. (These weren't mentioned on the programme but really interested me at the time)

The "joiners"

David Hockney has also worked with photography or, more precisely, photocollage.Using varying numbers of small Polaroid snaps or photolab-prints of a single subject Hockney arranged a patchwork to make a composite image. Because these photographs are taken from different perspectives and at slightly different times, the result is work which has an affinity with Cubism an affinity which was one of Hockney's major aims - discussing the way human vision works. Wickepedia

These joiners were about time with multiple images of, for instance, a figure, travelling from one place to another.

His book Secret Knowledge was a very thought provoking insight into the use of lenses by painters, long before photography.

Having said he'd 'never use a camera again', when he started the plein air series, he was now using one to help assemble his huge works. He quoted Sickert - 'never believe what an artist may say, only what they do' when challenged on the about face. :>)

He probably wouldn't be on my 'must have' list for when I win the lottery or find a rich billionaire to keep me in the style to which I'd like to become accustomed. But his work is interesting, challenging, constantly developing, exploring and has depth.

'You don't retire doing this' he said 'you just do it till you fall over' - so there will no doubt be more innovation to come.

Wikepedia on Hockney

You can read Katherine Tyrrells great review of the programme here


Irina said…
Thank you for your review on David Hockney. I learn a lot from your posts and comments. Now I know that sometimes my paintings are not out of composition but have special moving focus, Chinese style :-))
Julie Broom said…
You are are the best Vivien. I missed this last night so it was great to get your thoughts on it. Great links in your post too. I've now added Watermarks to my blog subscriptions too! Your most recent image posted there is simply beatiful - another one of your special works that gives me deja vu.
Lindsay said…
I love his work but what I like most is his willingness to try new media, new projects and change his approach. The part about head, hand and heart is so true! I tried to watch this video on BBC but so far only citizens of the UK can see it on line.:>(((

Lucky you and thanks for the lovely article.
Anita Davies said…
Yes, I watched it too and thoroughly enjoyed it. You gave a great write up.

Oh to paint in all weather conditions with an assistant holding your easel up and canvas still while squeezing your paint.
Chris Bellinger said…
A very interesting post!
I remember the shock he had when he whent back to paint the wood and it was gone,
He is one of my favourite artists and always has interesting things to say.
Thanks for this post.
Laureline said…
I've followed David Hockney for a VERY long time. He is very inspiring, as you say---a continual seeker, not content to stay with one safe, lucrative style. A facsimile sketchbook of his from Martha's Vineyard put me firmly on the travel sketchbook path eons ago.
I hope I can find a video copy of the program you watched. Thanks for this informative post.
vivien said…
Thank you Irina :>D

Thanks Julie :>) You can catch it on the BBC website if you missed it (only those living in the UK I'm afraid) - well worth watching even if you only see it tiny or low res that way. I'm glad you enjoy watermarks as well - the conversations are a real buzz there

Lindsay exactly! willingness to experiment is so important, not staying with a tried and tested formula. You have been doing some great experimenting lately :>) I hope you get it on one of your channels soon - bet you will.

Anita yes, it would be wonderful! amd to carry all the gear as well :>D

Thanks Chris.

Laura it's amazing how far influence spreads - I haven't seen that facsimile. He can certainly draw.
Jean Spitzer said…
I have not seen the program. It sounds very interesting. I'm most familiar with his Southern California paintings, and I've also looked through his book, Secret Knowledge. Thanks for giving me this more complete picture of him as he continues to grow and change. (I also like the idea of a "win the lottery" list.)
Pat said…
Great painting and great review. I wish I could have seen the program.
Chris Bellinger said…
Have commented before on post but you may find this artist of Artist of interst re http://alisonjardine.com/art-life/

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