DAVID HOCKNEY: A Bigger Picture
by Molly Price-Owen
See 'A Bigger Picture', gasp and prepared to be overwhelmed. The
bright, brilliant colours, the vibrancy and vivacity of the
vivid images jump out from the walls of the main galleries of
the Royal Academy of Arts. Spell-binding and
This is no retrospective, which pleases Hockney enormously.
Almost all the rooms are filled with recent work by the
74-year-old artist; much of it made within the past four years, a
good deal in the past twelve months, although a few earlier pieces
are included to provided context - for example the cool images of
Californian life and Yosemite National Park, or the searingly hot
pictures of the Grand Canyon, from the mid-60s (continues)
David Hockney RA: A Bigger
21 January 2012 to 9 April 2012
The Arrival of Spring in
Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 ©
Exhibition organised by the
Royal Academy of Arts, London in collaboration with the Guggenheim
Museum, Bilbao and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Just as Hockney revolutionised photographic art with his
awesome montages - hundreds of pictures overlapping each other to
form one huge image - so he has transformed landscape
Landscapes, Nature predominate: the artist wants us to see the
bigger picture, both of the countryside around us and literally
with the scale of the works on show. He brings us closer to the
subjects, drawing us into the picture. Concerned with what Van Gogh
called 'the infinity of nature' his recent work depicts a corner of
Yorkshire that he examines with the same obsession as Monet with
One gigantic picture covers the biggest wall in the gallery and
measures a staggering 365.8x975.4 cm. 'The Arrival of Spring in
Woldgate in 2011' is the centrepiece. (Woldgate being a road in the
country outside Bridlington, East Yorks). He evokes the
'floating feeling' of early Spring when the first leaves appear.
The vegetation seems to move and grow with waves of energy in
stunning greens, reds, purples and yellows.
A red path in the centre invites us into the wood to experience
Spring, walk through the early flowers, then touch and smell the
trees beyond. It's almost palpable, the effect is almost 3D.
This invitation is extended to many of his works - 'Come in,
take a closer, a bigger look at Nature's grand performance and
display'. There are tunnels, roads and paths to explore with
Hockney, born in Bradford, visited his late mother and sister
who lived in Bridlington. After decades spent in California, he
felt the pull of the countryside of his youth, so he made this
seaside town his home.
This main room also comprises a sequence of 51 iPad drawings,
but when Hockney agreed to do the exhibition, in 2007, the iPad
didn't exist. The precursor was his iPhone and he began to draw on
it with his thumb, using various Apps. He drew flowers every day,
and then sent them to friends who were fortunate enough received
fresh Hockney blooms daily! Then when the iPad was
launched, Hockney moved to this larger tablet computer and pursued
his production of digitally- aided drawings. He found its speed and
versatility exciting and envigorating. He printed them out on a
larger scale, and now they hang in the gallery. An excoriating
delight for the vision, and many made especially for this
In this wealth of Landscapes Hockney is making discoveries,
boldly moving into territory nobody has explored before, and they
express his love affair with the English countryside.
Another huge painting, 'Winter Timber' depicts the horizontal
and vertical together: felled yellow and orange tree trunks appear
to form part of the path leading us to the horizon, while the
vertical trees form the corridor up which we are beckoned.
Again the colours burst with luminous intensity.
Sketchbooks and iPads are also on view, and a fascinating video
film, where the artist set up nine cameras to film concurrently a
walk through various landscapes: the result is eighteen moving
pictures luring us into the woods, to persuade us to stroll along
these enchanting wonderlands. This exhilarating exhibition
shows how Hockney has 're-landscaped' Landscape art: It is an
exuberance of colour, form, size but above all passion; a visionary
experience (in both senses of the word), and highly arresting.
It should stop you in your tracks.
The exhibition runs at The Royal Academy in London from
21st January - 9th April