David Hockney: A Bigger Picture | Review

David Hockney’s extensive new show at the Royal Academy has had the art world a-buzz, and queues snaking around the corner. So when told I was required to write a piece on an art exhibition, I thought… where better to start?

A celebrity in his own right, Hockney is routinely described as Britain’s greatest living painter. Even going so far as to have reportedly sold more advance tickets for his new exhibition that Van Gogh did at the gallery’s blockbuster exhibition in 2010.

Not particularly an avid art exhibition frequenter, I thought I’d start with the question – would I want any of Hockney’s extensive new collection of work hanging in my home? The over powering answer to that was, certainly, a loudly resounding ‘no.’

This was largely due to the fact that the artwork seemed rather vulgar and garish; bright, often clashing colours making up the scenes and screaming out from the canvases. Why is there so much of it? Cried out my weary feet and brain. Why does it feel so repetitive? Why is everything so bright and garish? Why is the brushwork so careless and coarse?

Centering and devoted to a single genre: landscape, the collection focused on East Yorkshire, Hockney’s home turf and the country to which he returned after a long trip to California.

There were bright oil paintings of wheat fields and tree-lined country lanes. Multi-canvas vistas of woodland, as well as watercolours of hedgerows and haystacks, as well as 50 colourful ‘drawings’ created using an iPad, and video works depicting the natural world.

The concept behind the work, in contrast, is rather interesting – placing focus on the transformation of nature itself – through the different stages and seasons of the year. “Nature cannot be controlled, only followed,” said Hockney, of his recent collection – and that passion and dedication to tracing this process is enough, on its own, to capture your attention.

The artwork was, however, reminiscent of that of a child, albeit a talented one; blotches of colour fighting to be the most prominent. What with the fact that Hockney is best known as the raunchy Californian sensualist who offered provocative works to the world, often touching upon the subject of homosexuality – the fact that he has culminated in azure landscapes is slightly perplexing.

With the work varying from those painted from memory and those painted in the moment, it is easy to see the distinction between the two. A fairytale like quality – aided by the use of screaming colours such as purple and orange- embodied those painted from memory.

Extremely refreshing in the midst of this was a small collection of watercolours and charcoal sketches. Mid Summer East Yorkshire, for example – a watercolour series from 2004 – is a soothing conglomeration of smaller, pale canvases.

Particularly impressive, was Hockney’s ability to adapt so efficiently to the younger generation. Despite his age Hockney’s work belies his years, portraying that of someone much younger. His ability to utilize new invention such as the iPad is also particularly commendable.

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture is at the Royal Academy, W1 (020 7300 8000, royalacademy.org.uk) until April 9. Open Sun-Thurs, 10am-6pm; Fri, 10am-10pm; Sat, 9am-10pm. Admission £14 (concs available)


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