This huge Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain is probably one of the most amazing exhibitions I have ever had the privilege to see. I have always been a fan of Hockney sand this for many reasons. He is my generation, he was a sixties swinger, he was never afraid of criticism, he was open, when, to be openly gay was a crime and he brought understandable art to the masses. But I was totally ignorant of his early work from his college days and just after and also of his recent iPad drawings.
The exhibition is presented chronologically starting with his work in college and just after. There is something poignant about this work. He is showing his homosexuality but at the same time presenting it in a comic way. The two figures in “Cleaning Teeth” are typical of this period. He painted in many different styles like his hero Picasso. But he was still constrained by the times.
In 1964 he visited Los Angeles for the first time. California seemed to liberate him. He became part of the Bohemian set. His paintings took on a new life. The “swimming pool” series are among his best known. He studied water and its movement intensely. He was satirising the abstract movement in these paintings. His male fiends and partners are represented in this pictures. It seems to have been a very happy time for him. He was living the good life but he continued to be intensely productive.
At the end of the sixties he moved to acrylics. These gave the vibrancy he wanted to show. Acrylic also demanded more accuracy as they could not be painted over. He created paintings of his friends relaxing either in his house or theirs. The likenesses are remarkable almost like photographs except they are unmistakably Hockney. He was later to introduce photography into his work and complained that photography is too ‘flat’. He is working to improve this by creating 3D images superimposing several photographs. One such is presented in this exhibition. It is the card players.
Photographic drawing printed on paper mounted on aluminium, edition 1 of 12:69 4/5 × 69 4/5 in 177.2 × 177.2 cm © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt
His painting is shown on the wall of other card players. The lines between photography and painting are truly blurred here. This is what I dream of being able to do.
He also worked with Polaroid images creating a montage of dozens of images. Such inspiration.
He returned to the UK for a number of years. He stayed about eight years appearing to be surprised that he had stayed so long. He returned after the death of his 23 year old assistant from poisoning. While in Bridlington, UK, he painted the countryside. After the brilliant sunshine of California he loved the seasons back in England. Other than the charcoals just after his young friend’s death, his paintings were very vibrant. But he returned to California soon after.
Back in the UK in 2006 he began his series of the Wolds. He painted outside, for the first time, on huge canvases. Again demonstrating that he wants to create different paintings in different ways. In 2010 he began making multiscreen videos. This are mesmerising. We, all four of us, stood in front of the huge wall watching these. We disagreed afterwards about which screens were moving and which were static. Again Hockney was challenging us taking us on a journey into the image. It was magic.
Just when you think the man cannot create another original painting he moves to his iPad drawings. These are created on screens as you watch. It is mind altering…. The finished works, although they are only ‘doodles’ are brilliant.
This man is a genius. Long may he live to create every move challenging work.