This exhibition analyses the important role of landscape in the work of artist David Hockney, currently considered Britain’s greatest living artist.
From May 15, 2012 to Sep 30, 2012
The exhibition features some 190 artworks, most of them from after 2004. They include oil paintings, charcoal drawings, digital videos, sketchbooks and pictures made with iPad, of landscapes inspired by his native county, Yorkshire. The exhibition presents Hockney’s creative universe, and highlights his ability to depict nature using different techniques, as well as his emotional connection with the place where he grew up and his fascination with new technologies.
A selection of works from 1956 to 1998 is also presented, which shows how landscape has been present throughout the artist’s career.
Many years ago, in the magnificent Louisiana Modern Art Museum in Copenhagen, I happened on a old poster of a 1976 exhibition by David Hockney still on sale in the gift shop. It was a simple charcoal drawing of a white armchair in front of a French window with flowing white curtains. Framed, it’s been hanging in all the various flats I’ve lived in since then (I just checked on eBay: it’s sold as a “rare museum poster” for about 200 euros). It never ceases to fill me with peace.
After that, I looked for Hockney in every museum of modern art I visited. I saw steps and pools, portraits and flowers, and while my first Hockney love was a black and white drawing, later I was mesmerized by his use of colour, like for instance the deep changing blues of his “Mount Fuji with Flowers” (also hanging on my walls). But never had I been so smitten as I was when I visited “A Bigger Picture”, the exhibition on show this spring – until April 9th – at the London Royal Academy. It captures you from the very first room: on the four walls, four gigantic paintings depict the same three trees at Thixandale in Yorkshire, in spring, winter, summer and fall. It serves as an introduction, because the theme of the whole exhibition is nature, and particularly trees, the ever-changing seasons, and the power of renewal. The intensity of these trees and their colours physically hit the viewer and set the mood.
“A Bigger Picture” is a story about the landscapes of Yorkshire, Hockney’s native land. But also about other landscapes the artist has painted in his long career – from the amazing red Grand Canyon views to some hauntingly beautiful roads in California, the place where he settled thirty years ago. In his later years, for a variety of reasons, the artist – born in 1937, you do the math- was drawn back to his roots, under the ever-changing Yorkshire skies. The beauty of nature in this corner of Northern England (much celebrated in literature, from the Bronte sisters to James Herriot’s veterinary stories) clearly captured him with a charm which was multiplied by his memories (as a boy, Hockney used to work as a farm hand during the summer).