Whatever style he pursues, Hockney creates abundant and inquisitive artby Emma Crichton-Miller / January 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
We think we know David Hockney. He is one of the most recognisable and best-loved artists in the world—whether in his early incarnation as the boy from Bradford with bleached hair and round glasses who painted boys in swimming pools, or in his latter years as the trainer-wearing celebrant of East Yorkshire’s rolling landscape. His photo collage Pearblossom Hwy, 11-18th April 1986, #2 is the most popular image at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. His 1967 painting A Bigger Splash—with its meticulously realised explosion of white water in a scene of rectilinear calm—is regularly in the top 10 most popular British paintings. In 2011, British art students voted Hockney the most influential artist of all time.
On the one hand, Hockney seems reassuringly conservative in his focus on still life, landscape and portraiture. On the other, his bright-hued optimism and excited embrace of technology, from fax machines to the iPhone and iPad, have endeared him to new audiences. As two recent exhibitions at the Royal Academy—Yorkshire landscapes in 2012 and portraits in 2016—have proven, crowds flock to his abundant, inquisitive and joyful art.
In Hockney’s 80th year, however, Tate Britain is hoping to present a more comprehensive and nuanced account of his achievement in a new retrospective exhibition that runs from 9th February to 29th May.
As the Tate’s Andrew Wilson suggests, overfamiliarity with a handful of images has inured us to the radicalism of Hockney’s work, and obscured the consistency that runs through it. “Is the Hockney of popular imagination—of A Bigger Splash and the double portraits—the real Hockney? Or is he more extended than that?” Wilson asked me. The opportunity to see works from private collections, some of which have not been on display for 30 or 40 years, will enable a more thoroughgoing exploration of the oeuvre. There will be recognisable icons such as Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, from 1970-71, which features the “it” couple of their day, textile designer Celia Birtwell and fashion designer Ossie Clark, the latter ruffling a fur rug with his toes as light streams into their elegantly under-furnished Notting Hill flat.