Contemporary art, painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer David Hockney (b.1937 -) is heralded as England’s most famous living artist. Growing up in Bradford Yorkshire, his first one-man show was when he was 26 years of age in 1963. Now in 2016 he has a major solo exhibition of his work over the past decade on display at the National Gallery of Victoria, a first in Australia.
David Hockney: Current showcases hundreds of works from the past decade of this artist’s great career, which includes some 1200 plus paintings, digital drawings, photography and video works.
Tony Ellwood Director, NGV said: ‘It is a privilege to collaborate with David Hockney, one of the world’s most celebrated and truly innovative artists, to develop this exhibition which features dynamic new works and highlights of his oeuvre from the past decade’.
Now 79, David Hockney had a sprightly spring in his step and a mischievous twinkle in his eye, mounting the podium to greet special guests, sponsors and the media where he gave a delightfully frank interview for his mesmerized audience with Tony Ellwood.
His words were as colourful as his artworks as he happily and frankly answered his questions, with a number of great anecdotes to delight the crowd.
Hockney told us he first thought of working on a computer in 1986 when he was in Wiltshire, trying out a computer, which he said took up an enormous amount of space.
He tried again in 1991 and while a little better; he knew that the technology had a way to go before he could handle it.
It was 2009 when he got his first iPhone and iPad and he’s never looked back since.
Now all his suits have a large pocket inside so he can take his iPad with him everywhere.
When viewing his works we feel his enjoyment, much like a little boy with a new toy, as he comes to terms with a whole new way of producing art, without paint or any mess to have to clean up.
They are at the beginning of his journey towards his more sophisticated works of recent times, produced with the aid of technology.
One of the secrets he shared was that he loves that he can now draw in the dark!
Following the interview he led the way as we all entered the exhibition, to enjoy an uplifting, motivational experience, which as Tony Ellwood pointed out, was a good way to start the day.
The first Red Room contained multitudes of Hockney’s iPhone and iPad drawings, which provide an insight to his life in Yorkshire. From flowerpots to teapots, the everyday objects he captures take on an importance they have never enjoyed before, vibrant with colour and new found life.
His single landscapes, a genre he has given new life to in the mature years of his life, were either painted ‘en plein air’ with the help of technology in East Yorkshire or in the stunning natural wonder of Yosemite National Park in California.
Startling images of light on water, fallen leaves, a still pool on a roadway lined with tunnels of trees overhanging a country road, best convey a sense of being there.
Having travelled to Yorkshire many times during my life, I have a special love for this part of England and its landscape, which hovers between wild, woolly and powerfully picturesque. I am sure I lived there in another life and viewing this work and others from the same area just compounded that feeling.
Breathtaking in scope as you encounter David Hockney’s awesome Bigger Trees Near Warter, which he completed to take up a whole wall for an exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, so that no other work would be shown next to it, all you can do is wonder at the power of his observation.
What a tour de force it is, consisting of fifty oil on canvas panels 4.6 metres x 12 metres that make one giant work, which dominates the room. Prints of the original he donated to the Tate Gallery in London, which it has lent for the show, are repeated on the other three walls.
The second Red Room is a sixty metre long knockout, built especially to accommodate eighty two portraits he has only recently, and almost obsessively completed, of his family, friends and notable subjects all posing on a chair in his studio…
… it is extraordinary to see them all together, a confronting experience.
It reminded me that art is a language in images, a method by which we communicate ideas, express conceptions about self, our society, culture and community.
The final room in the exhibition contains a brilliant interactive work entitled The Four Seasons, delivering glittering visions of Woldgate Woods, as a breath-taking totally immersive video work.
Four giant screens allow us to experience the changing landscape each season in an ever-moving collage, that I found completely captivating as he seemingly innovates the future of art.
Captured by mounting a number of high definition digital cameras on a jeep and driving along the narrow road dating from Roman times that runs from Bessingby Hill on the outskirts of Bridlington west to the village of Kilham 7 miles away, he recorded his favourite stretch of the road.
He recorded how the trees flanking the roadway changed throughout one year in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter capturing them in breathtaking glory.
They are projected onto 4 x nine high-definition screens in a very large black octagonal room, where all you can do is concentrate on what is revealed. It is a very special experience.
Since he produced this marvelous work and displayed it at The Royal Academy in London, the road has now become known as The Hockney Trail, putting the Yorkshire Wolds on the international art world’s map.
Within the scope of human history art has always concerned itself with the natural and supernatural, the real and unreal, seen and unseen, past, present and future, transient and eternal. Based on David Hockney’s insight, we have every reason to believe that this concept will continue.
It would be hard not to admire artist David Hockney, his inventiveness, innovation, courage, creativity, wonderful flexibility and extraordinary ability to move with the times. It is at times overwhelming, but always challenging.
Hockney seems to have found his own way to inject meaning, spirit and purpose in everything around him, while revealing to us the intangibles that so often occlude the truth with a riveting and powerfully humanistic reality.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
November 11, 2016 to March 13, 2017