David Hockney Again

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art just opened a David Hockney exhibit entitled 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life. Each person is someone he knows personally, like his dentist, Museum curators, etc.  Each person sat for a "20 hour exposure" as Hockney says, which can be rather intimidating having someone study you for that long of a time.

Image: David Hockney, Barry Humphries, 26th, 27th, 28th March 2015 from 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life, 2015, courtesy of the artist, © David Hockney, photo by Richard Schmidt  Source: LAMCA

I heard about the exhibit through an interview with Hockney on the PBS Newshour. Read more about the interview HERE. The following exchange jumped out at me as I listened to the interview.

Jeffrey Brown:
A lot of people would think of this as an old-fashioned idea, right? Painting’s old-fashioned. Portrait painting even is old-fashioned.
David Hockney:
Well, yes, but it’s not really.
I mean, I know the arguments about painting is dead. But painting can’t die, because photography is not good enough, actually. Not good enough.
Jeffrey Brown:
It’s not good enough?
David Hockney:
No. It’s just a snap. But, I mean, why not look longer at something? Look longer, and you maybe see more.

So, photography is not good enough. This is a contrarian view given that everyone sees themselves as a photographer with a cell phone now a days. Hockney always gets me to think about assumptions we may have as a society.

I thought I would share my article I wrote about him last year.

Learning from Other Artists, Like David Hockney

September 19, 2017 — Kathleen Warren

I have reread the recent article on David Hockney by Deborah Solomon in the New York Times, "David Hockney, Contrarian, Shifts Perspectives,"several times. He's being interviewed because there's a massive retrospective of his life and art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City scheduled for November 27, 2017. I was surprised when I read the quote that earlier in his career he thought he was a painter on the fringes. He said, “I thought I was a peripheral artist, really.” You see he was doing figurative somewhat realistic art when it was fashionable to only create abstract art. This article pointed out that now he's probably the most celebrated artist in all of England. He is designing a stained-glass window for Westminster Abbey in honor of Queen Elizabeth. The author of the New York Times article went on to say that nowadays artists can choose their own medium, figurative or abstract. There are no rules. There's no exclusion. You are not better or worse if you do one or the other. I hadn't realize what a liberating thing that is. If a great artist like David Hockney felt like he was a peripheral artist because of the way he chose to express himself, we are lucky that he had the courage and perseverance to do it anyway. 

I have been interested in David Hockney and his art for years. I found a book about him at the library years ago entitled A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford. I am fascinated by his use of explosive bright color.  People who know my series work would not be surprised by this. The more I learned about David Hockney the more complicated and multilayered he became to me. In his 70s, he started an entirely new technique. He started drawing on his iPad and then prints the art in a large size format for exhibitions. The way he makes the art didn't matter. He could be painting or he could be on his iPad.

The painting style he may be most known for is his iconic pool scenes and portraits of the 60's and 70's. Everything is light and bright. It's so LA.

He moved back to Yorkshire, England where he is originally from and spent several years painting natural landscapes. He painted the roads he walked on in different seasons. He painted trees and forests. 

My fascination with him is his adaptability.  As he ages and now he is 80, nobody could say he is stuck in the past. He's kept current in his own way expressing himself in the way that best suited him at the time.

I'm going to spend some time with his iPad series from Yosemite because I love his use of color in these compositions. These were made exclusively on his iPad. The New York Times has an article about just this series called, "David Hockney Paints Yosemite — on an iPad."


David Hockney English, born 1937. © David Hockney . Image from
American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman), 1968  Source: Art Institute of Chicago

A few years ago, I didn't want to spend too much time looking at other artists' work because I thought it would diminish my own vision. Now, I realize that knowing what impacts you in others art is just a window into the world of what you and your art are all about. It can be a mirror reflecting back to you the details of your unique style. Of course, I'm not suggesting anyone tries to imitate another artist but now I feel free to get inspired by other artists and honor their creativity as well as my own.  In this case, I like Hockney's bright use of colors because it always cheers me up. I never tire of looking at his landscapes from Yorkshire.

David Hockney standing before the Arrival of Spring. Source: A Bigger Picture