diamond geezer

 Friday, February 17, 2012

"Do you have any tickets for David Hockney? I'd heard you were fully booked."
"Yes we certainly do. Don't look so surprised, of course we sell tickets on the door. But are you sure you want to come in? We're closing at six o'clock tonight so you've only got an hour, and it is a big exhibition. That'll be fourteen pounds please."

The Royal Academy have a blockbuster on their hands with their latest Hockney exhibition - A Bigger Picture. It may not be the finest collection of art ever assembled under their roof, indeed it may be some way off, but the British public knows what it likes, and it likes paintings of seasonal trees in East Yorkshire. David lives in Bridlington, and has been out along one particular country lane to the west of the town umpteen times over the last few years. Woldgate is a former Roman road linking several areas of woodland, along and over a patchwork landscape of fields and gentle hills. Nothing special, yet with an artist's eye transformed into somewhere very special indeed.

"Can I scan your ticket please? This way thank you."

David does love painting treescapes through the seasons, as you'll see on the four walls of the first gallery. The same three trees, and a hill and a lane and a field, pictured a few months apart in various stages of leafy dress. It's easy to play Spot The Difference between each giant canvas, not just as foliage blazes and wanes, but also as the colour of the wold in the background flits from unlikely blue to bright green to delusional emerald. Get too close and Hockney's splotchy dabs are all too evident, but stand back and the impact is unexpectedly intense. It's not all trees. Room two showcases some of his earlier work - bright orange canyons, a contorted milltown, one trademark swimming pool - and then, yes, it's back to the trees again. The East Yorkshire countryside clearly inspired him, initially through larger landscape pieces (with slightly dodgy perspective), then more consistently in greater close-up.

"The gallery will be closing in thirty minutes."

A room packed with rural watercolours and oil paintings duly delights, not least because they've been painted with care and detail, and in natural colours. Elsewhere, however, David isn't afraid of throwing in vibrant purples and garish oranges that have no place in the landscape, or a collection of greens seen only in the first flush of spring. Many of his trees are trunky rather than delicately branched, with the emphasis more on form and composition than on light and shadow. Indeed you might well expect to be bored of "more bloody trees" by the fifth consecutive room of the things, but the sheer variety of subjects and angles keeps appreciation high. Bursts of blossoming hawthorn, a tunnel of trees along a farm track, a pile of felled timber - all of these help avoid too many canvases of an excessively repetitive nature.

"The gallery will be closing in fifteen minutes."

On hearing that the Royal Academy wanted to display his work, David set about creating one particularly challenging ensemble piece for the largest gallery in the exhibition. It's entitled "The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-eleven)", and consists of one giant mural and 51 smaller illustrations. The mural's bold, symmetrical and woody, with unfeasible leaves. The smaller prints are daily snapshots captured from winter through to late spring, starting with bare snowy branches (2 January) and working round through the first buds and daffodils (25 March) to full floral hedgerows (May/June). Scan the walls and the seasons play out slowly yet subtly, to pleasing effect. And most surprising is that each picture was created on an iPad and later expanded - no brushwork required. Even aged 74, Hockney's attempting cutting edge.

"The gallery will be closing in five minutes."

A small room near the end of the exhibition features more of David's iPad treework - in a shuffling gallery, of course, as befits electronic presentation. In the cinema-style room next door, gathering the largest crowd, came a wall of screens displaying a series of tree-packed digital videos. David rigged up a jeep with nine synchronised high-definition cameras on the roof, then drove it slowly along the lanes near Woldgate during the various seasons of the year. These films are displayed in pairs on a subdivided grid, for example a lush summer 3×3 on the left, compared and contrasted to an icy winter 3×3 on the right. I'd happily have stayed to watch for much longer, but...

"The gallery is now closing. Please leave."

...I was ushered politely out, past some giant Yosemites and a final trio of Woldgates...

"The gallery is now closing. Please leave."

...into what had been the gift shop but had already closed for the night, which I suspect meant hundreds of pounds worth of potential purchases went unsold. Don't leave it until 5pm to visit, especially if you fancy a catalogue, some fridge magnets or a technicolour umbrella on the way out. And don't leave it until April, else Hockney's dayglo Piccadilly forest may well be fully booked, and then you'll never know whether you loved it or not.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream