This was an exhibition I was strangely looking forward to seeing, given that I have little knowledge of his work.  A few friends had seen it already and it had some mixed reviews from them, so I guess I was intrigued. First things first, there is a lot to see – as exhibitions go in terms of seeking to properly represent an artist’s oeuvre, this was a success and the exhibition’s curator at the Tate should be commended. You get to see his work from the 1950s to the present, paintings and photography (I was not aware that he dabbled and I talk a little about that below).

The Tate has late nights on Fridays and Saturdays – up until 22:00 (whereas the rest of the museum is closed from 18:00) and it was quite busy when we arrived at 18:30. There clearly is a conscious effort to make sure as many people can get to see this exhibition as possible and that can only be a good thing.

Now… what did I think of what I saw. The best way to describe it is that most of his work made brought me back to space I thought I used to occupy in relating to paintings… which is that they did nothing for me. I have said it before, that doing these photography courses at RACC has forced me to re-evaluate my ambivalence to painting as an art form and to see how photography is the child of painting in many ways. Whether that child is considered to be petulant or a lesser being is for others to debate. One thing Zig has taught me (I speak for no one else) is that to develop inspiration and creativity, you have to open your mind and eyes to other art forms e.g  paintings, sculpture, video and draw on other forms of creativity e.g. literature, film and music. So even if I go to an exhibition and find it generally uninspiring, the least I should do is ask myself why I found it that way. And so I did question why in the main David Hockney took me back to ‘that place‘.

In short, it is the way in which he has expressed perspective, that I found jarring – a lot of his work comes across as 2D… flat the way we draw when we are children and have not yet ‘mastered’ 3D perspective. Some examples are below:

© David Hockney

Yes, they are colourful and I kind of get some of them, but they do remind me of paintings by a child. But the overriding feeling is that they do nothing for me… is the emotion of indifference. I just did not care when I saw them.

That being said, there was some of his work that I did like… not to the extent that I would want them on my wall at home, but they evoked more of a response from me. There is a room in the exhibition that has large canvas portraits which possibly because of their size and the colours engaged me more.


© David Hockney

This was one of them, but again for me, the perspective is flat/compressed, but less so that the ones above. There were some others that caught my eye, but we were not allowed to take photographs in the exhibition and I could not find copies on the Internet. It remains to be seen what effect if any seeing this exhibition will have on my approach to photography. Will it alter my sense of composition? Will I want to over compensate with perspective? Will I try and replicate his colour saturation and vibrancy? If I am even asking these questions, then arguably his work has evoked a response that is more than mere ambivalence and it means the visit was more worthwhile that at first blush.

Now, to give him his dues, David Hockney has also embraced photography, videography and now the iPad to create work. Therefore it was unsurprising that I was more taken by that side of his oeuvre that his paintings. The collage work he produced was quite fun in particular the Polaroid work which much have taken a little bit of planning to execute in that way and now doubt cost …. 🙂 The iPad work was interesting to watch because it provided an insight into how he paints. One question I would like to ask him is whether working on an iPad causes him to amend his approach to how he paints, given its size and if so, it this amendment a good or a bad thing….

The four seasons video graphic work I liked quite a lot, more than I imagined, but I suspect that this was due in part to my feelings about his work prior to that room.

© David Hockney

Now there were a series of non-photographic works that I could engage with more and this again was down to the issue of perspective and there is an example below. I wonder if, for me, there is only so far I will go in terms of accepting an artist’s interpretation of reality and the level of distortion they apply to their work.


© David Hockney

My final words on this are that I am glad that I went as it demonstrated that I can very easily be taken back to that place of feeling very ambivalent and emotionless in relation to painting, which I thought I had moved away from… clearly it still live and kicking and is not limited to my disdain of Rothko. However, I will not be running back to a Hockney exhibition any time soon.

PS: What is his thing with monster hands…? Another jarring perspective issue for me!!! And let’s not talk about the boy lying on the bed in what could have only have been a ridiculously uncomfortable position, if that was from a live model…. ho hum and nuff said….

Assignment criteria: 1, 3 & 5