David Hockney and his domestic scenes
Many consider the artist David Hockney as the most influential living painter. The British artist, who belongs to the Pop movement of the 1960s, stands alone, as he loves shattering rules, confusing proportions, disregarding perspective and playing with c
While using the figurative style of Pop artists and the language of advertising, Hockney tries different media, brush, roller, camera, computer, tablet, smart phone, film and video. At 80, he is still painting and experimenting with new techniques. “The most celebrated British artist working today,” “Britain’s greatest living painter,” “one of the most popular and influential British artists,” as he is often labelled, has dare and flair.
Hockney was born in 1937 into a working class family in Yorkshire, northern England in the industrial city of Bradford. At sixteen, he entered the ‘Bradford School of Art’, and in 1959, he went to London to study at The Royal College of Art. The R.C.A. decided not to let him graduate in 1962 because he would not write a dissertation, arguing that he should be judged on his art, not his writing, and in protest, he made a drawing, calling it ‘The Diploma’. The Royal College of Art, known for its rigidity, changed its regulation and granted him the diploma.
In 1964, Hockney travelled to Los Angeles for the first time. This trip marked the beginning of a new period in his work, as he enjoyed the bright light, the strong sun and the lavish life-style. The following few years he stayed in the U.S. but journeyed extensively around America and Europe. He did some of his best works during this period, including the swimming pool series and the California landscapes. His subjects were mainly derived from his surroundings, his own life and that of his family and friends. In 1973, he moved to Paris for two years and in 1978 he went back to live in Los Angeles.
In California, Hockney changed from oil to acrylic paint, a relatively new medium. Fast drying, it suited the hot weather and the brilliance of the sun. There, he made his swimming pool series in a realistic style,
in vibrant colours, and with a strong touch of humour. He worked on finding ways of depicting the movement of water on canvas.
The ‘Splash’ paintings show the contrast of the moving water with the rigid buildings in the background, the pool edge and diving board. Playing on contrasts is one of his techniques of artificial stylisation. ‘A Bigger Splash’, came after ’A Little Splash’ and ‘The Splash.’ It was much larger than the other two, as he had started painting gigantic works.
In 2007, Hockney made his largest work, ‘Bigger Trees Near Water’, painted in his native Yorkshire region, comprising 50 individual panels placed next to each other. In 2008, he donated it to the Tate Gallery, saying that he wanted to give the museum a good painting portraying a scene from England.
His portraits of family members and friends are his most intimate works, comprising only people he knew and cared for. The intensity, intimacy and familiarity of his portraits are contrasted with the expressionless and frozen figures. The L.A. portraits of the 1960s reveal the mood and taste of the U.S. during that period.
In early 1970, Hockney found himself at a dead end, and said he needed to go beyond his ‘Naturalism’. He started using photography, producing photo collages, which he called ‘Joiners’, made from composite patchwork images. He would take pictures from different perspectives and with photo collage, he worked on getting movement, like with a swimmer. This came to him by accident when he put photos next to each other and they looked like they were moving. With the ‘Joiners’, he said that he freed himself from Western perspective, and can “see the bigger picture.” Later, he realised the limitations of this technique and went back to painting.
Another innovation was to use the reverse perspective, a technique that reverses the classical perspective, and instead of distancing and giving depth to the landscape, it brings it towards the viewer, and the viewer feels closer and more involved in the scene.
In 1997, he visited a friend in Yorkshire, his childhood home and re-discovered its beauty. He still periodically goes to paint its landscapes.
When the ipad first appeared in 2010, Hockney taught himself to draw on it. He says that it is like painting on glass, and laughingly observes that what he does is not in fashion any more. Before that, he painted on the iphone, made videos and experimental films.
Hockney is known to be a hard worker and can easily stand behind his easel for six hours. More than once he set a fashion or trend, and in 2005, the English fashion house Burberry’s made its Spring/summer collection around Hockney’s style, and in 2012, the designer Vivienne Westwood named a chequered jacket after him. Also, in 2011 he was named one of the 50 most stylish men in Britain, and then listed one of the 50 best dressed of over-50.
My parents – 1977
A bigger splash - 1967
Le Parc des Sourses, Vichy – 1986
Still life on a glass table – 1971-1972
Nichols Canyon – 1980
Pool and steps – 1971