David Hockney: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy - video tour
Alastair Sooke explains why the final rooms rescue David Hockney's show at the Royal Academy.
Alastair Sooke, 17/1/2012(1)
("Moreover, they resemble the sorts of landscapes that we expect from amateur Sunday painters." - óptimo, mas não joga o artigo com o vídeo; o gajo diz uma coisa no filme e escreve outra)
"David Hockney: A Bigger Picture is devoted to a single genre: landscape. It came about after the artist showed Bigger Trees near Warter – a gargantuan landscape covering 50 canvases that is now in the collection of the Tate – at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2007. After it caused a splash, the RA offered Hockney the full suite of main galleries for a show of landscapes. The resulting exhibition contains more than 150 works, mostly created within the past decade.
Many were painted outdoors and depict the countryside around Bridlington, the small Yorkshire seaside town where Hockney has lived for seven years. There are bright oil paintings of wheat fields and tree-lined country lanes. There are multi-canvas vistas of woodland seen in different seasons. There are watercolours of hedgerows and haystacks, charcoal sketches of copses and logs, and more than 50 colourful “drawings”, created using an iPad and printed on to paper, documenting the onset of spring along an old Roman road that runs out of Bridlington. There are even nine - and 18- screen video works The colours are citrus-sharp.
You would be forgiven for asking: what happened? After all, Hockney is best known as the raunchy Californian sensualist who painted sun-kissed boys gliding through the azure swimming pools of Los Angeles in the Sixties. The radical has come over all conservative. I could happily have done without the watercolours recording midsummer in east Yorkshire in 2004, or the suite of smallish oil paintings from the following year.
Perhaps it’s a generational thing, but I don’t understand paintings like these. Fresh, bright and perfectly delightful, they are much too polite and unthinkingly happy for my taste: if they offer a vision of arcadia, it is a mindless one. Moreover, they resemble the sorts of landscapes that we expect from amateur Sunday painters. Hockney is anything but that – yet whatever game he is playing here eludes me.
The memorable pictures are those in which the prevailing note isn’t cheeriness, but something much stranger, more ferocious and intense. There is a room full of paintings of hawthorn blossom. It looks like a patisserie in which someone has run amok.
Another series, Winter Timber and Totems, introduces a touch of foreboding and forlorn melancholy. Thanks to the preternatural colours, the scene feels uncanny, suffused with the intensity of a vision.
Paintings such as Winter Timber go beyond mere topographical record, and remind us of the power of Hockney in his prime. For me, though, it feels as if the artist succumbed to a moment of hubris when he agreed to fill the Royal Academy’s grandest galleries with so many pictures. But for all that, there’s no doubt that A Bigger Picture will be insanely popular, giving a great deal of pleasure to a great many people.
From Sat until April 9; tickets: 0844 209 0051. Sponsored by BNP Paribas. The catalogue is published in hardback by Thames & Hudson (£60.00) and in softback by the RA (£29.95).
David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, Royal Academy of Arts, review
Whatever game David Hockney is playing in his hotly anticipated Royal Academy show eludes me, says Alastair Sooke.
Alastair Sooke, 16/1/2012 (2) review
"It is 50 years since David Hockney graduated from the Royal College of Art wearing a gold lamé jacket. Within a few years he had earned a reputation as an enfant terrible whose risqué autobiographical work touched upon the taboo subject of homosexuality. With his oversized spectacles and hair dyed silvery blond, he became Brit art’s first celebrity: a charmer whose personality beguiled the public as much as his work.
Fast-forward half a century, and Hockney is still feted and adored. He shed his skin of provocative wunderkind long ago, fashioning instead a role as a plain-speaking chain-smoker specialising in common sense. Following the death of Lucian Freud, he is routinely described as Britain’s greatest living painter. He is certainly the most popular: there have reportedly been more advance ticket sales for his new exhibition at the Royal Academy than there were for the gallery’s blockbuster Van Gogh exhibition in 2010.
Many were painted outdoors and depict the countryside around Bridlington, the small Yorkshire seaside town where Hockney has lived for seven years. There are bright oil paintings of wheat fields and tree-lined country lanes. There are multi-canvas vistas of woodland seen in different seasons. There are watercolours of hedgerows and haystacks, charcoal sketches of copses and logs, and more than 50 colourful “drawings”, created using an iPad and printed on to paper, documenting the onset of spring along an old Roman road that runs out of Bridlington. There are even nine- and 18-screen video works that record the fluctuating appearance of Woldgate Woods: captured using high-definition cameras ingeniously rigged on to Hockney’s Jeep, they subject the natural world to the kind of scrutiny that the German artist Albrecht Dürer once lavished upon a clump of turf. Generally the mood is upbeat, homely yet wonderstruck. I half expected to hear a cuckoo sing. The colours are citrus-sharp."
"What David Hockney’s return tells us about the new mood in Britain"
Peter Oborne (is the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator) link
The country is once more ready to make confident judgments about truth and beauty
(uma defesa política: "he is a conservative painter" - ou talvez não...)
"Art has often possessed a political significance. Van Dyck’s grand portraits of Charles I were meant to project an image that would bolster that effete monarch’s doomed attempt to build an absolute monarchy. Meanwhile, the spruce Dutch interiors from the same era spoke of the quiet assurance of a triumphant middle class.
Art continues to express a political consciousness today, as can be seen by an examination of two new, rival exhibitions in London, each of which represents a distinct social and political vision.
The first and most impressive of these is the magical collection of David Hockney’s landscapes at the Royal Academy. I do not know, and would not care to ask, which party Hockney votes for at general elections. But this much can be asserted with certainty: he is a conservative painter.
In a famous passage, the great philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote that “to be conservative… is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss”.
Hockney’s landscapes, on public display from this Saturday, are on one level a meditation on this Oakeshottian theme. They are about particular times, seasons, places. It is highly relevant that the inspiration for the paintings began with friendship. Jonathan Silver, an old companion of Hockney’s, was ill with cancer and almost every day the painter would travel to see him. As a dying wish, Mr Silver appealed to Hockney to record the landscape of East Yorkshire in paint. These landscapes are in a sense Mr Silver’s legacy.
Almost as important as sense of place is Hockney’s reverence for tradition. He is an innovative painter, most famously exemplified by his contribution to Pop Art in the 1960s. But much of his technical virtuosity is based around an exploration of previous masters. Just as his hero Picasso would reinterpret the achievements of Manet and Velázquez, so Hockney magnificently reworks the 17th century landscapes of Claude Lorrain.
Hockney is a craftsman as much as an artist. I once read an interview in which he described how as a young man he worked 16 hours a day improving his draughtsmanship. A total mastery of drawing from life, achieved over a lifetime of dedication to his calling, is at the heart of his artistic achievement.
Finally, Hockney respects his audience. His art is accessible, which is why he is loved by ordinary people. He loves them back. At the artist’s request, his canvasses have been hung high on the wall of the gallery so that more people can see them. Hockney understands, in a way that the arts establishment abhors, that art does not belong to an informed elite. No special knowledge or jargon is required to understand a Hockney landscape.
Let us now turn to Damien Hirst, whose display of spot paintings opened at both of London’s Gagosian galleries last week. Just as Hockney is conservative, so Hirst fits in tidily with Michael Oakeshott’s definition of the progressive: “You will not be bound by unprofitable attachments to particular localities, pieties will be fleeting, loyalties evanescent; you may even be wise to try anything once in search of improvement.”
Hirst’s spot paintings are abstract and universal, lack humanity and have zero reference to time or place: his exhibition is being shown simultaneously at 11 galleries around the world. Skill is not required: no late nights at life class for Hirst, who gained an E grade at art A-level and scarcely knows how to draw. “There is no such thing as a good as opposed to a bad spot painting,” noted the Telegraph’s art critic Richard Dorment in a review last week. Hence the need for experts to explain to a baffled public why Hirst matters: the arts establishment love him so much because he gives them a priestly role.
In due course, however, I would guess that critics will question whether Hirst was an artist at all. Just as the Cambridge literary critic FR Leavis once remarked (rather unfairly) that “the Sitwells belong to the history of publicity rather than of poetry”, so Hirst will be viewed as part of the history of celebrity rather than of art. The late New Labour historian Ben Pimlott wrote in 1998: “What ensures that Hirst is important, and perhaps what also makes him good, is the reality of his fame.”
Hirst today is starting to look like a figure from that most distant of periods, the recent past. He came to popularity with New Labour in the 1990s and shared so many of its characteristics. Both took advantage of a curious epoch in our national life when appearance and reality merged, and notions of truth and beauty were debased to such an extent that a spot painting could seriously be considered as high art.
New Labour (like Damien Hirst, often accused of plagiarism) adored him. Tony Blair purchased two paintings for the government collection and put one of them on the wall of his study in Downing Street. In 1998, Chris Smith, then the culture secretary, burst into print with a work called Creative Britain. On the front of the book the hapless Smith placed a print of one of Hirst’s paintings (title: beautiful, all round, lovely day, big toys for big kids, Frank and Lorna, when we are no longer children).
It was one of Hirst’s spin paintings (a precursor to the spot paintings), which had taken all of 30 seconds to make. He achieved his effect by placing his canvasses on a centrifuge, and pouring cans of household gloss paint onto the surface. The finished pieces, circular in shape, were mounted on steel frames and sold for large sums to gullible American and Japanese bankers.
Ultimately, all this was about big money. Just like Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, Damien Hirst knew how exactly to tap the big, corporate market. He is probably the richest artist there has ever been, and in September 2008, just as world markets collapsed, he sold works worth
£111 million at a Sotheby’s auction.
Two weeks ago I noted on this page that we are living through a sea-change. Progressive ideas are being exploded, Conservative ones are coming back. This affects every aspect of our national life, not just politics. David Hockney did not return to Britain after a long stay in the United States because he had been told that David Cameron would be the next British prime minister, but his arrival here nevertheless says something very important about the national direction of travel. Appearance and reality are no longer identical. Good and bad are no longer indistinguishable. The Royal Academy matters more than Tate Modern.
The central distinction in Conservative philosophy is between two different kinds of knowledge: abstract and concrete. Britain is moving back towards a world with solid, enduring values in which, for the first time in many years, public figures can make confident judgments about truth, beauty and morality. It is a world in which David Hockney OM has an honoured place as the greatest artist of his age."
London Evening Standard
David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture, Royal Academy - review
By Brian Sewell (19 Jan 2012) review
My predominant response to David Hockney's exhibition of Yorkshire landscapes at the Royal Academy is "Why?". Why is there so much of it? Why is so much of it so big, so towering, so vast, so overblown and corpulent? Why is it so repetitive? Why is everything so unreally bright, so garish, discordant, raw and Romany? Why is the brushwork so careless, crude and coarse? For me this overwhelming accumulation of his recent work is the visual equivalent of being tied hand and foot and dumped under the loudspeakers of the Glastonbury Festival.
This exhibition is at the Royal Academy because it will bring in a multitude of punters and, with the outrageous admission price of £14, mightily increase the profits of the grand old whore of Piccadilly, masquerading as a charity. It is so big because Hockney, following the footsteps of Gormley, Kapoor and Gilbert and George, now works to fill the available space, and the "Bigger" of the title suggests that he has not yet identified the Biggest - but if he continues to follow Kapoor, he will, he will. It is repetitive because that is Hockney's way - he takes a subject and wrings it to exhaustion, constantly repeating tricks of handling to lend shallow interest to his fields of canvas. As for his discordant range of colour, I fell to wondering if he is the Monet of our day, his vision so dimmed by cataracts that he must paint in vile greens and viler purples if he is to see anything take shape on his innumerable canvases. And the brushwork is crude because that is what so easily happens when a painter works beyond his, or the subject's, natural scale, or does not care if, when a landscape requires the jigsawing of 50 canvases, the junctions are jerkily approximate.
As no one who knows anything of Yorkshire's wolds has ever seen them clad in the ghastly gaudiness of Hockney's vision, I must ask, if he is not purblind, from whom he borrows this jangling, jarring, grating palette? Has he, perhaps, a man of sudden enthusiasms who, on discovering the art and practice of watercolour only as late as 2002, immediately became the greatest watercolourist of all time, now just discovered the Fauve painters of Paris a century ago, Derain, Dufy, Vlaminck et al, and replaced them too, the wild man of the wolds, the savage of Scarborough, the beast of Bridlington? Fauvism was recently defined as "a movement characterised by a violence of colours, often applied unmixed from tubes of paint in broad flat areas, by spontaneity and roughness of execution, and by a bold sense of surface design"; to make it the perfect fit for Hockney we need only add the occasional employment of heavy outlines and dependence on recurring detail.
It matters not at all if, in his dotage (he was born in 1937 on the day that Ethiopians devote to Pontius Pilate), his work is nourished by a new influence. His apologists are almost too anxious to declare his kinships with Brueghel and Turner, Van Gogh and Picasso, and his variations on a theme by Claude - dubbed by Hockney himself "A bigger message after Claude Lorrain's Sermon on the Mount" - form a whole section of the exhibition, but of the Fauves there is no mention, nor of Walt Disney, whose Bambi would be comfortably at home in all these paintings.
If he denies the Fauves their influence, then perhaps we should look at their near contemporaries in England, at the work of Harold Gilman and Spencer Gore, and even to Gore's long-lived son Frederick who, as a Royal Academician, overlapped with Hockney. Those who delighted in the way that Freddy Gore, well into his nineties and the first years of this century, continued to hack out the landscape formula that Hockney now enlists and with the same bright vulgarity, will at once recognise the close parallel.
For all their up-to-the-minute modernity in Kapoorian scale and the smell of ill-considered paint still drying, these landscape vastnesses are disconcertingly old-fashioned. Technically much the same, technologically Hockney's work is very different from that of his more modest predecessors. The Fauves, the New English Art Clubbers and Freddy Gore brushed paint onto single canvases of unambitious size; so too does Hockney, but some are almost as large as Leonardo's Last Supper, and in most of his recent work the motif is spread over an assemblage of anything from two to fifty-two canvases abutting each other in a rectangle. This industrial scale apparently requires an industrial approach, and technologies far loftier than the low technology of brush and paint come into play. Conventional drawing we should expect, and it is present; photography we should, perhaps, forgive, and it too plays its part in the production of a painting and, independently, it is included in the exhibition; but should we not dig in our heels and resist when Hockney pays homage to such mysteries as synchronised printing, digital video stills, the simultaneous operation of nine cameras, and the iPhone and iPad as instruments of drawing?
David has always adopted new technologies as they became available - the computer, the fax machine, the photocopier, the Polaroid and so on (and we all know how the Polaroid collages lost their colour and definition, and the faxes faded into oblivion) - but I feel compelled to ask if, for all this gadgetry, his paintings have improved.
They have increased mightily in number, but in quality they have, no matter what the subject, as mightily deteriorated. There was a time in the 1970s when I thought him one of the best draughtsmen of the 20th century, wonderfully skilful, observant, subtle, sympathetic, spare, every touch of pencil, pen or crayon essential to the evocation of the subject, whether it be a portrait or light flooding a sparse room; nothing has made me change that view, but Hockney has tried very hard. As a painter he has never had so sure a touch, has always seemed mannered, always a borrower affecting this approach and that (and in his heyday, very well) and, as though uncertain with the material of paint, has used it to colour between the lines rather than create with it the structure, form, volume, texture, atmosphere and space of whatever different reality lies beyond the picture plane. Now, in this new work, every blade of grass, every stalk of stubble, every hedgerow flower is reduced to a cypher and, when diminished by erratic perspective, to a blur.
In old age [Hockney is 74] he has acquired a clumsy bravura and he strokes, stabs and dabs the canvas with seeming confidence, but in truth much of this is the stuff of habitual gesture, of industry, repetitive, for he knows no other way of covering such an acreage of canvas. He is surrounded by sycophants, none of whom has the honesty to tell him what he needs to know - that he has fallen far from the saturated brilliance of his last brief fling with quality, the Grand Canyon drawings and paintings of 1998 or so, one of which acts as a benchmark in the scene-setting first room of the exhibition; no one has warned him that in dogged repetition what fire he once had has become a thing of ash and ember; and no one has dared suggest that though all the cocksure recent stuff dashed off for the exhibition works well as braggadocio, it is ultimately dull.
Indeed, half these pictures are fit only for the railings of Green Park, across the way from the Royal Academy, and would never be accepted for the Summer Exhibition were they sent in under pseudonyms.
As for Hockney's rivalry with his master, Claude, this is sickening impertinence, contemptible.
Hockney is not another Turner expressing, in high seriousness, his debt to the old master; Hockney is not another Picasso teasing Velázquez and Delacroix with not quite enough wit; here Hockney is a vulgar prankster, trivialising not only a painting that he is incapable of understanding and could never execute, but in involving him in the various parodies, demeaning Picasso too.
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)
David Hockney landscapes: The wold is not enough
The Royal Academy's major show of David Hockney landscapes has its crazy moments. But all that fresh air wears Adrian Searle out
The Guardian, 16 January 2012: aqui