Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday 2 March 2012

Hockney . . . old meets new / new meets old

I'm not sure why I hung back and dithered about going to the biggest and brightest of block buster art exhibitions in town; maybe it was the memory of the heaving crush of cultured humanity in the Monet exhibition over a decade ago.

It was definitely not that I don't like Hockney, his work and his ideas – I do! . . . as a random pile of books and magazines from my shelf shows – the earliest is inscribed inside "October 9th 1979", I must have bought that one with my birthday money while I was still at school.

So I booked a ticket for yesterday afternoon and after a picnic of sushi (from itsu, not bad 6/10 but the rice could've been a lot better!) eaten sitting among the St David's Day daffs in Green Park; I strode into the courtyard of Burlington House, Piccadilly . . .

. . .  to see David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture.

If you're not able to get there yourself, I can recommend watching the BBC Culture Show Special David Hockney: The Art of Seeing. It's available on iPlayer until 5th March.

I was so pleased that I'd watched it before going to the exhibition because having seen David Hockney guide Andrew Marr through the galleries, I had a list in my mind of things to look out for.

Still taken from 'David Hockney: The Art of Seeing' BBC February 2012

Hockney is fascinated with the difference between the human eye and the single view-point of a camera lens; this is a common thread running through all his work. He is also fascinated by the technology of visual communication, he veers off into experiments in a new medium but always returns to basics  . . . looking and drawing . . . the hand and the eye . . . before surging on again with the energy and enthusiasm.

One thing I was keen to see (and I think I got this idea from the TV programme, I'll check when I re-watch it) was how the large multi-canvas 'en plein air' paintings work up close. Yes, the huge 6 canvas paintings of Woldgate Woods through the seasons are magnificent seen from the entrance to the gallery, but I wanted to stand a couple of feet away where Hockney had stood while he painted.

The result is like the visual equivalent of surround-sound, if you've got a ticket try it when you're there and let me know what you think.

I've tried to replicate the effect using a postcard of 'Woldgate Woods 6 and 9 November 2006' and my iPhone camera – the oblique close-up view makes the image become almost 3D. I'd love to live with one of this series on my wall.

What else did I like a lot? The watercolour landscape studies done from observation in 2004 are a tour de force; the iPad sketches of the arrival of Spring in 2011 are sheer brilliance; the multi-camera films of the Yorkshire Wolds through the seasons is a lesson in finding beauty in any corner – your garden or the field at the end of the road; and the charcoal studies of trees – will (I hope) inspire me to sketch trees from life!

Things that didn't really grab me? The Hawthorn Blossom series (though after I'd seen the multi-screen film of the hedges in blossom they did make more sense) and the Sermon on the Mount 'A Bigger Message' . . . mmm? still not sure about those.

Knowing that I was going to see Hockney's iPad sketches using the Brushes App, I realised that it was some months since I'd used Brushes or Vellum on my iPhone; so when I had a few minutes I made some very quick sketches (no more that 5 minutes).

Waiting for the train to London
late morning 1 March 2012

Lunchtime in Green Park
1 March 2012

In the Royal Academy Resturant
(a very welcome cup of tea)
late afternoon 1 March 2012

 On the way home on the train
early evening 1 March 2012

Now inspired to do more sketching outdoors
(watercolours and digital)
and that's no bad thing!



  1. He he-so you liked it then? I really want to go back and have a second look, taking into account everything I have read and seen and heard since.
    It's interesting that you thought the blossom was disappointing-I did too.Something slightly off about the perspective or something.

  2. I wasn't judging the perspective, I was irritated by the b***-***t on the sign inside the Hawthorn Blossom room, which didn't help! I thought it was just so different from the other work... but with hindsight it had connections to work I saw in 'Hockney Paints the Stage' (Hayward Gallery 1985). I could see those bushes as a fantastic theatre set or costumes!


  3. A wonderful account of the exhibition Celia. It was good going back for a second time because I knew what I wanted to see. Funnily enough I didn't like the Hawthorn series the first time but was quite taken with some of them on Wednesday. Still didn't like the Sermon on the Mount pictures though.

  4. I must go. Thought I'd try a mid to late afternoon midweek without prebooking. Were there queues? I have been reassured there's plenty of space once in the galleries.

  5. A lovely report of your visit. We too wanted to get up close to Woldgate woods but thats where we were rudely ushered back as we had not realised there was a 'magic line' over which we had strayed. Ho-hum. We too moved through the hawthorn blossom without the need comment and exclaim, unlike the other images where we didn't stop commenting. You are completely right about Sermon on the Mount. I felt so ill-at-ease with that one.
    But I had forgotten those paintings until you had mentioned them and only recalled the wonderfully impressive paintings, so I guess it was the desired result.

  6. Hello Patricia - I didn't see a long queue when I went in at 2.30pm, I think they are going to keep the galleries open for later in the evenings so it's worth going along on a weekday afternoon.

    Inside most of the galleries weren't over-crowded when I was there, there are some bottlenecks where people linger for a longer time and the entrance/shop was heaving!!!


    PS thought I'd beat the system by buying a catalogue off Amazon instead of paying full price and carrying it all the way home (worked like a dream for the Grayson Perry!). Drats! they've run out! So I ordered from the RA website - still, it's cheaper than another train ride into town!

  7. Hi Ailec - I've been wondering about the Sermon on the Mount stuff... I'd not heard of it before. I guess it's relevant to thinking about past master painters and how they worked. But it didn't seem to sit comfortably in this exhibition.
    I've been flicking through the catalogue from 'Hockney Paints the Stage' and those leaning topiary-like forms decorated with dots and spot patterns and long shadows crop up over and over.


  8. I'll miss it by a whisker!
    So your account is almost as good as seeing the work.
    Maybe I'll be able to find some smaller "trophies", like postcards?

  9. I haven't made it there yet; my friend Hilary indexed the catalogue and got to go to a postponed private view (snow hit for the proper one) and said it was amazing. I wish they wouldn't shriek about needing to book, everyone would get in just fine if they didn't cause a panic.
    I hope you went over the road for bangers and mash? Such a treat, and then the No9 Routemaster back to the station!

  10. Celia, thank you for this excellent review.

    I did try to access the BBC tv bit, but the Beeb won't let us foreigners see it.

    I think that it was Hockney's drawing mastery and printmaking that first interested me. He's just a bit older than I am, and so some of our contemporary cultural references, and responses to the march of tech are similar.

    I did once get to be in an audience at The Metropolitan Museum of Art when DH gave a lecture. I believe it was in the time when he was using polaroid photos, and amassing mosaic imagery. Anyhow, at the end of the lecture I did make my way over to him and got his DH signature on a little postcard. Don't think he liked doing that much, but I was glad he obliged.

    One of my favorite DH books on my shelves is a tiny book of Grimm's fairy tales illustrated by his etchings. I cannot remember when I bought that, think it was in London,know it was produced by the Petersburg Press.

    Gosh, this comment is getting long. I will send you an email. xo

  11. Loved the TV programme so thought we should go to see the real thing.... sadly no tickets left for when we can go and not much time to fit it in :-( but maybe Geoff will get down in the week while i work :-)

  12. I really like the quality of the 'marks' in that last i-pad sketch, 'On the way home', the power of technology eh, or the ingenuity of the artist.

    I'm so sad to be missing this exhibition but mighty pleased that bloggers are helping me to experience at least some of it, so thank you x

    Haha, my word verification includes arearty!

  13. Sorry meant to say your 'last i-phone sketch'.

  14. Thanks for this review - I think I must try to go and see for myself! Last time I saw any Hockney "for real" was when I was 19 and in art college... I remember being rather amazed by the sheer size of some of his work. He was producing some of his photo-mosaic stuff just then, and a lot of his "water" paintings. I remember being really fascinated by "A Bigger Splash".
    It would be great to go and see what he's been doing in recent years - I-Pad sketches, eh? wow!

    I like your i-phone sketches - especially the last one; a bit (teeny bit) Picasso... And I liked the cafe one too - it looks kind of cosy and enclosed, but the people look separate from each other - just as really happens in a cafe. Great stuff (and now I'm convince that it's time I did more drawing, as I don't think I could produce this sort of sketch and make it so convincing!)

    A really interesting post - so glad you shared your thoughts on the Exhibition. I really want to go there now!

  15. Hi Celia,
    you are on my list of artists to collect, courtsey of Lizzimade
    Love your lino's!! :o)


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