David Hockney – Royal Academy A Bigger Picture
The grey streets of February London are instantly forgotten as I step in to Hockney’s florid exhibition. I’ve entered Yorkshire in Technicolor, and immediately embrace Hockney’s kaleidoscopic twist on reality.
The title of the exhibition references one of Hockney’s most famous works ‘A Bigger Splash’ (1967) and the exhibition showcases the artists various approaches at depicting landscape throughout his career, from ‘Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians’ (1965) to the incredible ‘A Closer Grand Canyon’ (1998) which is where we are introduced to ‘The Grid’ technique that meanders it’s way throughout the exhibition to his film work at the end.
The Yorkshire landscapes which predominate the exhibition are Hockney reconnecting with his birthplace and seeing it with new eyes, which might be why roads and paths are another strong motif throughout the showcase. The beauty that surrounds them reminding us to not be blinkered by our desired destination and see what surrounds us on our journey. ‘The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire’, the exhibitions showpiece, is a florescent homage to nature and a prime example of this motif, with purple trees, cowslip and bluebells littering the hedgerows on a grid of 32 canvases. This is surrounded by over fifty large-scale iPad drawings.
With an irrational aversion to modernity it was here I found myself dragged in to the 21st Century, by a 74 year old man and finding it quite beautiful. Although I didn’t find the iPad drawings had the same depth, the same weight as the paintings, they just felt like they lacked a little substance in comparison to the rest of his work, it doesn’t detract from their isolated beauty or the skill required to create them. As was pointed out, Hockney had certainly “mastered” this new format.
Having studied the historical use of lenses and the cameras influence on art for the past six centuries Hockney has rejected the cameras influence in his composition of many of the paintings and again in his film work which was displayed in a small temporary cinema.
In the cinema the audience watches passing Yorkshire hedgerows in spring, summer, autumn and winter jumbled in a grid of screens. Hockney using 9 cameras attached to his assistants Landover to capture the frames. It’s about 10 minutes of hedgerows in total and some leave before the next film piece. Personally, I was more that happy to stare vacantly at winding country roads for 10 minutes, I can think of far worse things watch.
We then slip in to a colourful dance finale, with young, smiley dancers who, had I not been coaxed in to a very optimistic mood by Hockney, I would have found very irritating. Instead I found myself smiling at them wistfully and laughing as I spotted Hockney had surreptitiously planted an enlarged cigarette packet warning that said “Death awaits you whether you smoke or not”.
The colourful stride of the exhibition had a couple of limps, such as Hockney’s room full of interpretations of Claude Lorrain’s painting ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ which I’m sorry to say, put all of Hockney’s in the shadows but other than that, I found it an extensive, comforting, intelligent and a wonderfully unfamiliar exhibition.
Catch it while you still can.
Words by Jade Fitton / Features Editor