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A Bigger Picture: David Hockney at the Royal Acadamey

January 22, 2012 1 comment

David Hockney is one of those artists who I’ve always been aware of, but who I’ve never really considered in any great detail.

I certainly like some of his stuff: many years ago I bought the postcard of his 1961 “We 2 Boys together clinging” as I liked the way Hockney used the text in the painting, and some of his photomontages are pretty amazing, like this cubist composition of Christopher Isherwood and Bob Holman from 1983.

In general however, I found his work had a naivety that never really grabbed me, even after visiting one of his shows in the late 1980’s at the (then) newly converted Saltaire Gallery, my over-riding memory of the exhibition is of the paintings hanging from heating pipes, strung along the brick vaults, which meant you could see the back of them with all sorts of interesting exhibition labels and notes on them.

From the images in the press and the TV, this naivety is undoubtedly evident in his new show which is just about to open at the Royal Academy, however this new work seems to have a vibrancy, craft and scale that appeals to me…

A number of years ago, Hockey was approached by the RA about a retrospective show of his work. Hockney however had other ideas and suggested that rather than present the usual mix of old and new pictures across a few rooms, he would create a collection of new landscape works especially to suit the Royal Academy galleries, and in so doing, occupy every room available. As I understand it he didn’t quite fill every room, but this show is billed by the RA as the largest single artists display of wholly new works that they have ever hosted.

And what a joyous and vibrant display it looks too… A combination of over 150 landscape works in oils, photography, film and “Ipad”, most of which were inspired by the Dales of Yorkshire where Hockney now spends most of his time, standing in the middle of muddy fields with a vast array of canvases spread out before him… and a seemingly hallucinogenic palette of colours.

So we’ll be looking to get tickets to go see it for ourselves soon and hopefully it will live up to the images and the hype.. Which has been impressive to say the least. I’ve read at least five reviews over the last week or so ranging from the (mostly) favorable (Alastair Sook in the Telegraph) to the openly hostile (Mr Brian Sewell in devastatingly critical form in the Evening Standard). I was particularly intrigued by his suggestion that Hockney’s pictures are “fit only for the railings of Green Park across the way from the Royal Academy”… Ouch

We shall see….

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