As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about paintings, I still often lose sight of how they’re actually made. Theoretical and historical...
Louisa Mahoney 21 November 2022
min Read6 December 2021
This year, and for the first time since 1992, David Hockney is back in Brussels. A major retrospective of one of the most famous painters alive. The event takes place at Bozar and is presented as a double exhibition. The first one shows some of the finest works from the Tate Collection. The other one focuses on his drawings of nature. Here’s a splash of color to help you deal with the fading light of the changing season.
Since 2019, when he moved to Normandy, most of Hockney’s work has consisted of iPad drawings. During the first lockdown, he told himself, “Everything is canceled, even the Olympics, but you can’t cancel springtime.” Amid the strangeness of the health crisis, nature continued its cyclical, unperturbed work. Hockney made his mission to pay tribute to her by recording the day-to-day blossoming.
On the walls, there are over a hundred images of landscapes, or more precisely, impressions of these iPad drawings. The hanging is dense, and the immersion as a spectator is easy and pleasant. The iPad gives him great freedom of expression and allows him to quickly capture the singularity of the present moment and its atmosphere. Using iPad doesn’t affect his style; it’s just an “updated” version and, among others, a nice typical 2021 wink to Vincent van Gogh‘s work.
About the exhibition dedicated to the Tate Collection: it starts with his youth, when he was a student in the early 1960s. The artist is still searching for himself. His influences (Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet, etc.) and the Zeitgeist (pop art) are clearly visible. The autobiographical touch gradually appears, notably the affirmation of a free gay identity, without concession.
His iconic period, the California 1960s one, is represented by a few typical works mainly composed of ephebe’s bodies, modernist architecture, and swimming pools. The treatment of water surfaces, the representation of permanent movement, the play of light, abstract in its figuration, with a kind of singular psychedelic touch: all of this helps to explain why these works were and are still successful.
In his interviews, Hockney often talks about the importance of looking. He suggests looking with attention and carefully observing without doing anything else. Beauty is everywhere, all around us, but we have to make an effort, to focus on the act of looking. Beauty is on the water surface hit by the Californian sun as well as in your municipal swimming pool. Just look carefully.
Then, we have some large formats, also famous, like Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, or George Lawson and Wayne Sleep. The viewer is immersed in the tidy universe of the painting, which is almost life-size. There’s also the sublime My Parents. His mother’s gaze, both tender and tired, the ordinary pose of his father, his posture bending under the weight of past life, the furniture: all this is sublimated by the rigorous composition and the sensitivity of the author, which passes through the bright colors. No doubt, we are in front of a masterpiece.
The most interesting room focuses on his willingness to explore multi-point perspectives, like the view below from the Hotel Alcatan’s patio in Mexico City. He’s engaged in a search to break away from the linear perspective, seen as a tunnel and ultimately not very representative of the real-looking experience. Reality is never revealed all at once, but by successive touches, by posing several looks, and from these various images recorded, the brain forms an overview. It’s this experience that these works attempt to translate: the link between space, memory, and perspective.
This research on multi-point perspectives finds its culmination in the work that closes this overview of Hockney’s Tate Collection. This huge image (278.1 x 760.1 cm), created from 3000 smallest ones, shows David Hockney in his studio surrounded by his drawings. A close examination quickly reveals that this is not an usual picture. A hidden message (“Perspective is a tunnel”) hidden somewhere in the canvas confirms it.
At 84, David Hockney continues to dazzle us. As we go through his career, a perpetual work in progress, we are amazed by the constancy of the quality of his work, the variety of mediums used, their technical mastery, but also by his desire to question the obvious.
We are in front of a resolutely optimistic aesthete, turned towards the light, an inspiring personality. Just feel that, the exhibition is worth it. Hockney’s colors take care of you.
David Hockney : works from the Tate Collection, 1954-2017.
David Hockney : the arrival of spring. Normandy, 2020.
08.10.2021 – 23.01.2022
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