10 Nov 2011

David Hockney and his painting (2)

The man has been so prolific that it is hard to know where to start. In my previous 2 posts on Hockney's visual work, I first showed some of his work around the theme of water and swimming pools, when talking about the remarkable book of interviews with him, recently published: http://morethanjustwine.blogspot.com/2011/10/david-hockney-sees.html

In the second post, I showed both some very early paintings and, at the other end of the time scale, a couple of recent ones:

So maybe it is time to start to fill the gap. Here is a double portait of the writer Christopher Isherwood (left) and the portrait artist Don Bachardy. It was painted in 1968 and so is part of the long "Californian" period of Hockney's life.

When reading what Hockney has to say about looking and painting (or, to use his more exact expression, "making marks") I am struck by the intensity of the pleasure he takes from looking and, then again, of making images. On the topic of the power of images he quotes David Freedberg who wrote a book called just that (The Power of Images): "People are sexually aroused by pictures and sculptures; they break pictures and sculptures; they mutilate them, kiss them, cry before them, and go on journeys to them; they are calmed by them, stirred by them and incited to revolt. They give thanks by means of them, expect to be elevated by them, and are moved to the highest levels of empathy and fear". Hockney goes on to make this comment: "And the point is, all these things didn't just happen in the past: it's still true today....and if the "art world" retreats from them, it becomes a minor activity."

Hockney is very open about his infuences and in fact works directly with them. Above is a painting from 1970 which is still in the precise, "realistic" style of the previous work. Yet, by showing a Picasso mural drawing in the backgound, it seems to me to announce a later period when Hockney would investigate closely the work of Picasso and use Picasso's way of looking, and some of his ways of painting. This shows in the treatment of both perspective and colours, as well as the apparent rapidity of the execution. The work below, from 1985, is an example among many.

Hockney has also regularly worked in several media (painting, engraving, drawing, theatre, computer media) and using different subject matter and approaches to his painting and graphic work. And this seemingly can occur during the same periods. His eccelecticism, in this respect, echos that of Picasso whom he greatly admires. The "realistic" style continued to be much used by Hockney through the 1970's, but not exclusively...

Contre jour, 1974

Divine, 1979

The above swimming pool painting, for example, from 1978, is made of compressed paper.

Speaking of influences, in the large (and often double) portraits, the presence of Edward Hopper can clearly be felt, in the atmosphere and the attitudes of the poses, even if Hockney's style and frequent toungue-in-cheek humour is always unique, as in the above (Shirley Goldfarb and Gregory Masurofsky) from 1974. Acrylics were often the medium for these.

Speaking of portaits, and to illustrate the openness of Hockey to a wide range of techniques, media and "styles", I will finish this article with another work from 1985 (the same year as the Picasso-like chair a few paintings above), this amazing portait of his mother using multiple Polaroid shots. Then of course, I suppose that we can also detect the presence of a certain Pablo P and the cubist movement here.

There will be more to come....