Are you having a hot summer wherever you’re reading this? Then take a Big Splash with me, courtesy of David Hockney.
While in Paris, one of my art stops had to be the Pompidou Centre.
It had just received pretty much all of the Hockney retrospective held at the Tate in London I had written about back here. Yet with an artist as multi-faceted as David Hockney, Pompidou Centre built on the Tate exhibition to cover even more of the incredible palette of Hockney’s styles, giving me the opportunity to cover a few other “colours” from Hockney’s rainbow.
Having just turned 80, Hockney’s style can be now defined as versatility with colorful virtuosity, “a sort of post-modernism, before it even existed¹”. He recognizes having been hugely inspired by another Master well versed in art history like him and talented across media and styles. Yes, it was the 1960 Picasso Exhibition at the Tate that changed it all for Hockney.
So here he is again, Picasso. With his eclectic style, constantly revisiting, absorbing and reinventing artists who preceded him, Picasso – the “vertical invader” as the late John Berger described him – basically pushed back the limits of Hockney’s ever free spirit.
From portraits – double portraits even – to oversized brightly colored landscapes and candy colored still-lives bound to reconcile younger generations with the genre, David Hockney can do it all.
What’s more, as he adopts the latest technologies such as his iPad drawings and multi-screens HD video art demonstrate, he wins over the youngest of generations.
Kids get immediately interested because his drawing lines are so not intimidating but instead accessible and his joyful colors draw people in.
It’s about Hockney “coming out” during his early years in the UK with Cleaning Teeth, Early Evening(10PM) W11, 1962…
… then being openly gay, living the California dream from 1964 onwards. Unashamedly.
It’s about embracing a child-like quality of line similar to the style of Dubuffet, combining this apparently simple outline with complex texture effects (stone, shaggy rugs, wood floors as in Large Interior, LA…) which gives a fresh yet sensual look to his artworks.
The rendering of water reflections is another of Hockney’s trademarks. California gave him constant opportunities for observation.
California was where his palette became “solar” but also where he started using acrylic paints applied with rollers to best translate the flatter aspect which strong sunlight grants to everything.
Discovering this exhibition in the company of three dear friends who used to live in California with me was a life treat but one iconic image triggered quite a few interrogations.
Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972 displays a pool reminiscent of other Hockney pool paintings.
What’s interesting is that the white edge of the pool mirrors the wide edges that frame A Bigger Splash for instance. It’s a frame which is itself borrowed from the Polaroid format Hockney used a lot in other works. So here, it’s almost as if Hockney inserted one of his painting (the swimmer in the pool) in the reality he’s painting. This makes particular sense when the pool is California-based but the landscape is known to be from a stay in South of France. So perhaps, Peter Schlesinger, standing on the edge of the pool, is reflecting upon art in general, a particular artwork maybe but mostly about his relationship with Hockney which will end soon.
I found Itzhak Goldberg particularly perceptive in his analysis of Hockney’s double portraits. He describes them as “conversation pieces becoming a piece with no conversation²”. Figures are together, but not really. Google My Parents, American Collectors or Mr. And Mrs. Clark and Percy and let me know your thoughts.
I find it has a lot to do with how Hockney manipulates space. The one we stand in and the one he paints.
As previously mentioned in my blog from February 2017, David Hockney is “splashing perspective” to provide a “bigger picture”, one that is not limited to monocular or “cyclopic perspective”.
Hockney wants us to use both our eyes, revisiting the Cubist approach of Braque and Picasso of simultaneous multiple points of view. I think in doing this, Hockney has created a way of seeing closely matching the fresh look that children have not yet lost.
Hockney has always questioned what vision is about, weighing optics and realism versus formalism. If his art is so powerful, it’s because of his use of inverted perspective.
He often blocks the horizon and places the vanishing point with the viewer, usually high up and basically outside the canvas.
You can see anything and everything, be it far or near. Art delivering augmented reality!
My favorite exemple is Pearlblossom Highway, April 11-18th, 1986, ” a panoramic assault on Renaissance one-point perspective” (Hockney).
The multiple vantage perspectives are what makes the canvas reverberate the colors and heat haze of this California desert scene.
The apotheosis of the show has to be The Four Seasons, nine wide screens for each season filming a path much walked by Hockney in Woldgate Woods, Yorkshire.
And here I have a request. If I am ever stuck in a hospital on my deathbed, that’s what I want to look at as I fade away. I would not be scared then…
Standing in the centre of these four seasons unrolling before my very eyes was practically magic.
If not, you can get an idea with this youtube link.
Photography was not allowed at Centre Pompidou, so what you get is what you get 😉
Thank you to my dear friends Inès, Nathalie and Amélie for going to the museum with me.
Thank you to Flammarion for a gorgeous exhibition catalogue, courtesy of Amélie.
As ever, I’d love to read your comments about your take on this exhibition if you’ve seen it, my blog in general so I can progress. If you’d like to share it, you’d be helping me a lot and I thank you in advance for doing so.
¹ Itzhak Goldberg, Images avec des Personnes, Connaissance des Arts Hors Série.
© 2017 Ingrid Westlake
All pictures by Ingrid Westlake, unless otherwise stated.