Sun­shine Su­per­man

Da­vid Ho­ck­ney au Centre Pom­pi­dou.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Sommaire -

Le Centre Pom­pi­dou ac­cueille jus­qu’au mois d’oc­tobre pro­chain une grande ré­tros­pec­tive de l’ar­tiste an­glais Da­vid Ho­ck­ney. Cette ex­po­si­tion, d’abord pré­sen­tée à la Tate à Londres, puis qui se­ra trans­fé­rée au Me­tro­po­li­tan Mu­seum de New York après son pas­sage à Pa­ris, a été re­ma­niée pour l’oc­ca­sion. C’est cer­tai­ne­ment l’un des évè­ne­ments cultu­rels les plus im­por­tants de l’an­née.

The mor­ning I vi­si­ted the Da­vid Ho­ck­ney retrospective. TV crews from around the world were flit­ting im­por­tant­ly from room to room, pre­sen­ters of­fe­ring shor­thand pieces to ca­me­ra in front of A Big­ger Splash or Mr and Mrs Clark and Per­cy. One Ame­ri­can cri­tic was es­saying so ma­ny takes of her ope­ning line that it came to sound like a loo­ped com­men­ta­ry: “Da­vid Ho­ck­ney was born in drea­ry, grey, rai­ny nor­thern En­gland, and as soon as he could he mi­gra­ted to Ca­li­for­nia, drawn by its sun­shine and vi­brant co­lours…”

2.It’s one way of loo­king at some of the rooms of this show but it doesn’t tell the whole sto­ry. The pain­tings Ho­ck­ney pro­du­ced at the Royal Col­lege of Art, in­tense se­mi-abs­tract can­vases, make a pent-up pre­lude to the aqua­ma­rine plea­sures that fol­lo­wed. In 1960 and 1961, when ho­mo­sexua­li­ty was still cri­mi­na­li­sed in Bri­tain, the pain­ter, then in his ear­ly 20s, was de­vo­ting most of his ar­tis­tic ener­gy to the ris­ky bu­si­ness of co­ming out.

3.In style, his can­vases bor­row some of the lan­guage of the 1950s Bri­tish avant garde, in par­ti­cu­lar Alan Da­vie’s ef­forts to paint the un­cons­cious, but Ho­ck­ney de­ter­mi­ned­ly quee­red this par­ti­cu­lar pitch. There are paint-

The Da­vid Ho­ck­ney retrospective that just fi­ni­shed run­ning at Tate Bri­tain has drawn 478,082 vi­si­tors past the gate. This makes it the most vi­si­ted exhibition ever held at the gal­le­ry.

ings de­co­ra­ted with the crude graf­fi­ti of toi­let walls: “fist”, “69” and “ring me any­time at home” (1961’s ver­sion of “my phone’s on vi­brate for you”), to­ge­ther with al­lu­sions to Walt Whit­man’s all-in­clu­sive love poe­try – the low and the high of in­ti­ma­cy.

4.Some of the fan­ta­sy seems uns­po­ken; phal­lic shapes loom out of his dis­tres­sed sur­faces un­re­sol­ved. Some is sta­ted more li­te­ral­ly as with the pop art joke of Clea­ning Teeth, Ear­ly Eve­ning (10pm), in which em­bryo­nic fi­gures with tubes of Col­gate for pricks in­ter­t­wine on a chai­ned bed above an out­size pot of tra­de­mar­ked Va­se­line.

5.The com­pli­ca­ted dis­play of these pic­tures – one is cal­led sim­ply Shame – was ne­ver, you guess, going to be ho­nest en­ough for the de­fiant ex­hi­bi­tio­nist in Ho­ck­ney, who was at the same

time ta­king to the re­vue stage at the Royal Col­lege to sing “I’m just a girl who can’t say no” in mi­ner’s boots and a tu­tu. Ca­li­for­nia gave him a way to get rid of all that com­pli­ca­tion. In his ear­ly Ame­ri­can pic­tures – Ari­zo­na 1964, say – you can see him fee­ling the ad­ven­tu­rous pos­si­bi­li­ty of the open road. When he sub­se­quent­ly makes the leap from the un­re­sol­ved in­ter­ior life of the ear­lier pain­tings to the pool­side pa­ra­dise, it looks like a trium­phant­ly po­li­ti­cal act as well as a per­so­nal li­be­ra­tion.

6.By 1967, he was done with scraw­led al­lu­sion. He wan­ted the sub­jects of his lust in ea­sy sun­light. The li­mi­ta­tions of abs­trac­tion are sa­ti­ri­sed in these pic­tures. A Big­ger Splash could be an Ame­ri­can Mon­drian, if one of Ho­ck­ney’s gol­den lads hadn’t di­ved in­to the frame to create a riot of wa­ter.

7.Ho­ck­ney fa­mous­ly com­men­ted how the ci­ty of an­gels had not been do­cu­men­ted in paint:

“My God! This place needs its Pi­ra­ne­si… so here I am.” There is a pre­lap­sa­rian qua­li­ty to some of these pic­tures, but all good Edens come to an end. By the time of Por­trait of an Ar­tist (Pool with Two Fi­gures) in 1972, in which a sta­tic and dis­con­nec­ted fi­gure peers

7. Pi­ra­ne­si (dit Le Pi­ra­nèse) gra­veur et ar­chi­tecte ita­lien (1720-1778) / pre­lap­sa­rian d'avant la Chute (Bible) / to peer in­to plon­ger le re­gard dans.

in­to a pool at a sub­mer­ged swim­mer, Ho­ck­ney ap­pears to be dra­ma­ti­sing the dis­tance bet­ween sub­ject and ob­ject.

8.In some senses the sub­sequent 40 years of Ho­ck­ney’s ca­reer look like a se­ries of he­roic at­tempts and stra­te­gies to ma­nu­fac­ture the in­ten­si­ty of his ear­ly years; gi­ven his pas­sion for to­bac­co you could argue that they re­present the most ex­ten­ded post­coi­tal smoke in art his­to­ry. He re­fuses any­thing like bit­ter­ness and any­thing but the most sea­so­nal­ly com­for­ting vi­sions of mor­ta­li­ty.

9.An abi­ding fas­ci­na­tion with the eye’s ha­bits of construc­ting the world of­ten takes centre stage in la­ter work, but the hu­ma­ni­ty of his pain­ting is ne­ver far away. The po­la­roid por­traits al­rea­dy look a cu­rious­ly ar­chaic at­tempt to cap­ture the mo­ment by mo­ment cu­bism of loo­king; still, they re­main full of ge­nuine heart. There is a poi­gnant col­lage of My Mo­ther, Bol­ton Ab­bey, York­shire, Nov 1982, which brought to mind an anec­dote Ho­ck­ney once told me in an in­ter­view, about his mum’s first vi­sit to Be­ver­ly Hil­ls. Af­ter two or three days out on the pa­tio, she de­li­ve­red her ver­dict on his li­fe­style: “It’s strange – all this lo­ve­ly wea­ther and yet you ne­ver see any wa­shing out.”

10.Ho­ck­ney tries to re­con­cile those dif­ferent ba­ck­drops to his life by trans­plan­ting – al­ways take the wea­ther with you – the lu­rid co­lours of the Ca­li­for­nia de­serts­cape to his na­tive Wolds. Loo­king at the sheer sho­cking love of pig­ment in the lar­gest of these can­vases, you could make an ar­gu­ment that Ho­ck­ney had wai­ted all his life for the sa­tu­ra­ted ba­ck­lit pa­lette of an iPad, though the dex­te­rous ex­pe­ri­ments with di­gi­tal fin­ger pain­ting that are in­clu­ded here are not much more than cu­rio­si­ties. In the past de­cade or so, af­ter the death of his mo­ther at 99, the hu­man fi­gure all but re­treats from his land­scapes. Ins­tead, in film, and in paint, and in char­coal sketch, he looks for all that might be im­por­tant in the world out­side his win­dow, with en­du­ring spi­rit and va­riable suc­cess.

(© Da­vid Ho­ck­ney)

Do­mes­tic Scene, Los Angeles, 1963.

(Di­nen­dra Ha­ria/Shut­ters/SIPA)

'A Clo­ser Win­ter Tun­nel' by Bri­tish ar­tist Da­vid Ho­ck­ney.

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