David Hockney's Bigger Picture

David Hockney interview from Royal Academy of Arts on Vimeo.

David Hockney's major new exibition opens at the Royal Academy on January 21st. He is an artist who works within the Renaissance tradition of depiction, with those central concerns of nature, space and time, and, as in this forthcoming show, the tradition of the landscape. But he is also an artist who has embraced new technology; photography, fax, and now the iPad. I have always admired him - his draftsmanship, his thoughtfulness, and even his humour.

 Last week (26 Dec 2011) BBC Radio 4 devoted a Start the Week programme to Hockney, discussing his latest work. The in-depth interview by Andrew Marr was both revealing and fascinating. He spoke about drawing, about observation of nature, the benefit and the excitement of seeing consecutive springtimes at the same place over a number of years. It showed the depth of his engagement with his subject.

He had a lot to say about technology, and it is apparent that the use of computer technology has become integrated into his process of picture making, even when the result is painting. David Hockney has always been interested in technology,  not for its own sake, but in furthering his picture making.

The camera is one example of his embracing of technology and investigation of picture making. 'Photography is not a final reaching of reality. Technology is opening something up, we are able to alter pictures.' He also noted that 'Cameras give you a certain type of view, but it’s not the human view.'

David Hockney (1983). Walking In The Zen Garden, Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto 1983
photographic collage, 40 x 62 1/2 in. http://www.hockneypictures.com/photos/photos_collages_06.php
The photomontage works he has produced over many years (see the example above) are, he said, a type of drawing with the camera. (Hockney is perhaps unusual in appreciating that we have not yet exhausted cubism any more than we have exhausted Renaissance perspective).

David Hockney (2011) The arrival of spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011
ipad drawing printed on paper
144.4 x 108.3 cm

© David Hockney
His latest work uses the iPad, both as a part of the process and as an end in itself - 'the luminous screen' - and the RA exhibition will feature some of his iPad drawings (see above). He is also showing film of this English landscape shot with an array of 18 cameras.

For me Hockney's approach encapsulates the paradoxical relationship with the world which we can now enjoy (and I do mean enjoy) - he embraces the latest technology whilst, at the same time, acknowledging the importance of craft and of  'the hand'. He cited a Chinese saying: 'In drawing you need the hand, the eye and the heart. Two won’t do!'. And he spoke about the importance of craft in the work of the artist. 'I would say the hand counts, there’s a whole group of other people who say it doesn’t, it’s a little bit insulting to craftsmen isn’t it?' And this aspect of craft has an importance for pedagogy, he maintained:

'I used to point out, in an art school, you can teach the craft. It’s the poetry you can’t teach, but now they try and teach the poetry and forget the craft. It’s craft that can be taught.'
Food for thought... perhaps, to some extent, one can teach, or at least encourage and facilitate, the poetry (not forgetting of course that there is also a 'craft' to poetry). But Hockney poses here the interesting question of just where that balance lies between the poetry and the craft in the teaching of art.

He related a story about his Mother coming to his exhibition at which there was a sculptural piece by Barry Flannagan whichcontained a large rope. 'Did he make the rope?' his Mother asked...

Start the week: David Hockney Special (2011). BBC Radio 4. Monday 26 December. 45 minutes. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018g2yz (Accessed 4 Jan 2012)
Royal Academy of Arts (2011). David Hockney RA: a bigger picture. Interview. Royal Academy of Arts Video online. http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/hockney/ (Accessed 4 Jan 2012)

Links & information
Further publications
Wroe, N (2012) David Hockney: a life in art. The Guardian (Review), Jan 14, <Available online at> http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2012/jan/13/david-hockney-life-in-art (Accessed 14 Jan 2012)
'The iPad is like an endless piece of paper that perfectly fitted the feeling I had that painting should be big'says Hockney in this Guardian interview.

1 comment:

Adrian Holme said...

PS Hockney's comments in the Andrew Marr interview have created a little bit of a stir... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-16459643