David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture, Royal Academy of Arts, January 21 – April 9, 2012
Painter, photographer, stage designer and graphic artist David Hockney is considered to be one of the most shining examples of 20th-century British art. The exhibition at the Royal Academy covers a period of 50 years, focusing viewers' attention on one of Hockney's obsessions - landscape painting. Emphasis is also placed on works that the artist created especially for the Royal Academy, under the inspiration of the landscape that surrounds the painter's current home in East Yorkshire. Born in Bradford, which he has described as a gloomy, gothic and industrial city, Hockney began his arts studies there, later continuing at the Royal College of Art in London.
While still a student, Hockney - alongside Peter Blake - took part in the now legendary 1961 Young Contemporaries exhibition, which marked the arrival of British pop art (British art student Young Contemporaries shows have been taking place since 1949). A few years later, he met Andy Warhol in New York and was overwhelmed by a visit to California, which became a second home to Hockney for many years. He only returned to the United Kingdom for good during the first decade of the new century, fed up with the irritating attitude of Americans towards smokers. However, it was precisely the USA's light and colours that became a source of inspiration for his painting. In the spring of 1967, Hockney created the celebrated work A Bigger Splash, which embodies the essence of the Californian landscape and for which he used a limited colour palette - cobalt and ultramarine blue, natural and burnt sienna, natural umber, Hooker's green, Naples yellow and titanium white. Blue skies without a single cloud, an almost palpable midday heat and splashes of water caused by a body diving into the pool. Hockney fences off the landscape with a frame, creating a striking association with another sign of the 20th century - the Polaroid photograph, also a common instrument of Hockney's art. This painting is currently the property of the Tate Gallery.
The legendary artist's passion of recent years (since 2008) has been the creation of iPhone and iPad drawings, which his friends receive in large quantities by e-mail, and which have experienced a number of exhibitions over the last few years. "I draw flowers every day on my iPhone and send them to my friends, so they get fresh flowers every morning. Not only can I draw them as if in a little sketchbook, I can also then send them to 15 or 20 people, who then get them that morning when they wake up."
David Hockney does not live in dark and gloomy Bradford anymore, instead residing in Bridlington - its surrounding landscapes, bathed in light, are now part of the exhibition showing at the Royal Academy.