Hockney show for 80th birthday

Mr And Mrs Clark And Percy 1970-1 by British artist David Hockney, one of the works on show at the Tate Britain gallery.
Mr And Mrs Clark And Percy 1970-1 by British artist David Hockney, one of the works on show at the Tate Britain gallery.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

A retrospective of celebrated British artist David Hockney covers early works to the latest ones created on an iPad

LONDON • David Hockney is marking his 80th birthday this year with a major retrospective of his work in London, which attempts to explore what turns an artist into a star.

From his early drawings right through to his latest works created on an iPad, more than 200 of the celebrated British painter's works will be on show at the Tate Britain gallery from tomorrow to May 29.

They include his 1960s Californian swimming pool series, his 1970s double portraits and more recent works in the bright landscapes of his native Yorkshire in northern England.

Tate Britain said it would be the world's most extensive retrospective of Hockney's work.

"It will shed new light on his relationship to the development of his art; how to picture the world, represent the experience of being alive," said the gallery's director Alex Farquharson. "He always questioned what a picture is."

The exhibition was put together in collaboration with the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The show will stop at those institutions after London.

Hockney also had a hand in bringing about the exhibition.

"It has been a pleasure to revisit works I made decades ago," he said. "Many of them seem like old friends to me now."

The exhibition's curator, Mr Chris Stephens, said Hockney's works were "what is art all about - why do we capture the world in pictures".

"Hockney has a popularity, a level of recognition far greater than almost any other artist in the world," he said, adding that it did not mean his works were not "serious".

Hockney's art is the "joyous adventure of transforming what he sees in pictures", Mr Stephens said.

Less tortured than Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, less conceptual than Damien Hirst, Hockney's world is one of light, bright colours and open spaces.

"I paint what I like, when I like, and where I like, with occasional nostalgic journeys," he once said.

Even in picking mundane subjects, he has captured the collective imagination with his vivid style.

Mr Stephens said: "The swimming pools looked so exotic in the 1960s and also we were not that familiar with Los Angeles topography."

The artist often picked those close to him, including his lovers, as the subjects of his paintings, capturing them in natural poses by a swimming pool or in the shower.

One of his most famous works is A Bigger Splash, which shows the moment after someone has leapt from a diving board into the water below.

Equally celebrated is his series of double portraits in acrylic paint, which include the late author Christopher Isherwood.

The exhibition also features Hockney's photographic work, in which he recreates scenes by piecing together hundreds of images. The playful Pearlblossom Highway shows a clutter of United States signs with cacti by the roadside.

The rolling hills of the Yorkshire Wolds, painted in the 1980s, are surprisingly bright and colourful, deliberately recalling Fauvism, the style inspired by the likes of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne.

The only sombre note is The Arrival Of Spring In 2013, a series of 25 charcoal drawings of trees in which, according to Mr Stephens, Hockney conveys a strong sense of his own mortality.

The artist moved back to California in 2013 and two new paintings of his home and garden in Los Angeles are being shown for the first time, including his balcony in a bold shade of blue.

The exhibition concludes with pictures drawn on an iPad, his current method as he embraces modern technology to turn the world he sees into pictures.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Hockney show for 80th birthday'. Print Edition | Subscribe