So who the heck is David Hockney? And how did I come across the news about his exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London?
Well, he is one of the most famous living British painters, even if he spent most of his life in Southern California. He is very well known for his images of swimming pools and villas, but he’s so much more than that. He has experimented with photographs, created sets for plays and operas, written books about pictorial techniques…
I have to admit that I only had a vague notion of his talent, until I decided I wanted to see the exhibition. My plans were different, but they were thwarted by “unavoidable circumstances” (this is an inside joke), so I decided on a whim that I could make a day-trip to London just for David.
I am so glad I did! First of all I love London, so any chance is good to go back, then I think London loves me, and I am always welcomed by sunshine, which was really good to stroll around. And the exhibition was fantastic. It was really worth the wait (and the money). As soon as you get into the first circular room, you are captured by the images of three trees through the changing seasons, you keep running your eyes from one to the other following the year’s cycle. Then, of course your eyes are caught by the huge Yorkshire Spring painting in the next room, but it’s not its turn yet, you have to be patient and to be prepared for it.
Hockney’s very voice accompanies you along the rooms, explaining his choices, and the curator’s expresses her point of view, as you see the evolution in technique and themes. You can see a couple of Hockney’s photographic collages, stemming from the idea that, when you are in a landscape you see it from many different points of view, therefore he decided to take hundreds of different pictures with different angles and “mount” them all together; the joints are obvious, but you still feel sucked into the picture.
He says he applied this technique to some of his larger works, the ones created on a canvas grid for practical reasons, which also incorporate this concept, even if the “glitches” are a lot less obvious.
In a Monet-like effort, he paints some of his favourite spots over and over, to record the changing of light and of season, and I found these works intriguing: the opening in Woldgate forest changes from blossoming and lush in May to quiet and a bit dull in November. While looking at it, I almost expected to hear the sound of cracking leaves under my feet.
And then you get to the Spring 2011 installation, finally: a huge, overwhelming painting of the forest with budding leaves and bright green grass and 51 prints of purpose-made iPad drawings. The oil painting keeps drawing your eyes to itself, you are never tired of watching it, and its size makes you feel like you are “into” the painting, you almost smell the fresh grass and feel a light breeze. And some of the iPad prints are good indeed, you almost do not notice they are just sketches on the electronic device. Some are not as good, but still impressive. Hockney says he likes this kind of medium, as it is immediate, almost like taking your watercolours with you, but without the encumbrance.
Even if the colours are off, way too bright to be real, David’s works really give forth an aura of nature. It is a strange feeling, but when you get out of the Academy, you feel nice, you almost try to disentangle leaves from your hair, as if you had been lying in the grass.
If you have a chance, don’t be put off by the queue, wait and see it.
and here’s a couple of links: