Ideas of authenticity, originality and irony.
David Hockney English 1937 – Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique 2007 oil on 50 canvases 459.0 x 1225.0 cm (overall) Tate, London Presented by the artist 2008 (T12887) © David Hockney
Photograph by Richard Schmidt. Used with permission by National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).
One could be forgiven for thinking that the exhibition David Hockney: Current, presently showing at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) International is a retrospective because of the sheer number of artwork on display; there are 1200 works featured. Despite the focus, which as the title suggests, is recent work over the past decade, this exhibition has a broader aim; it explores a philosophy underpinning an artistic legacy that spans more than 50 years and lies at the heart of all Hockney’s work.
A pioneer of the British Pop Art movement in the early 1960s and based in America for much of his adult creative life, Hockney now 79 is still arguably one of England’s most successful and influential artists. Perhaps more popularly known for his colourful, naturalistic, Californian urban landscape paintings such as the swimming pool series, he has explored and experimented with many different mediums from acrylic painting, print and photography to photomontage and set design. During the late 1970s, he began to experiment with technology, using the photocopier, fax machine and the computer to further develop and extend his work. His later use of the video and current use of the iPhone and iPad can be seen as an extension of this fondness for technology; a medium through which he is able to more satisfactorily explore such postmodernist notions as multiple perspectives, fragmentation of the image along with the ideas of authenticity, originality and irony.
Curated by the NGV in collaboration with Hockney and his studio, Current features paintings, digital drawings, photography and videos. The exhibition takes the viewer through multiple spaces of varying size and includes more than 600 (some animated) iPhone and iPad drawings of still-life compositions, domestic scenes, portraits as well as larger scale landscape works. Entering the first space the viewer is introduced to Hockney’s early experiments with the iPhone in 2009 including texts, doodles and altered photographs. The animated screens document Hockney’s production process; his artistry and joy of mark making along with his developing mastery of the medium.
(Pictured) David Hockney English 1937– Self-portrait, 20 March 2012 (1219) iPad drawing Collection of the artist © David Hockney. Used with permission by National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).
The iPad drawings (2010-2016) reflect a significant change in Hockney’s drawing technique. With similar dimensions to a sketchbook, he began using a stylus, rather than using his finger, refining his technique and drawing more effectively on his strong drafting skills. The still-life images and self-portraits reflect this greater attention to detail.
The Arrival of Spring, (2011) series, (Woldgate) made on an iPad with digital prints focus’ on the Yorkshire landscape of his childhood. Similarly, The Yosemite suite, (2010-2011) series, California, USA, also utilises these mediums to explore the light and texture of the landscape. The final works of both series capturing the changing seasons and environments whilst the animated screens document their creation.
The Jugglers (2012) and 4 blue stools (2014) reflect something of Hockney’s ongoing interest in stage design through their sheer size; the paintings taking over the surrounding walls of the gallery space. The changing perspectives, angles and fragmentation of the image reflect Hockney’s strong Cubist influence; through photography, drawing, painting and video, the artist critiques the notion of ‘reality’ and reflects his continued interest in multiple perspectives.
Near the end of the exhibition is a room dedicated to the footage of the seasons. The four seasons, Woldgate Woods (Spring 2011, Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010) have been captured on multiple video screens by high-definition video cameras. Mounted on rigging attached to Hockney’s car he recorded simultaneously as he drove through the changing seasons of the Yorkshire countryside. These large-scale immersive works continue to build on Hockney’s fascination with perspective, fragmentation and light.
Whether you are a David Hockney fan or not this well conceived and curated exhibition is well worth a visit if you are in Melbourne. Minimal didactic panels and text labeling (there are also some ‘kid’s labels’) support the works and a video interview with Hockney, made on-site at the NGV especially for the exhibition, provides a good overview of the man’s life, work and the current exhibition. As with any block- buster, time and focus is required to gain the most from the show so take a break half way through (which the ticket allows if it’s the same day) and let yourself be immersed in the life and work of this iconic artist.
David Hockney English 1937– The arrival of spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) – 31 May, No. 1 (900) iPad drawing printed on 6 sheets of paper mounted on Dibond 290.8 x 218.4 cm (overall) Collection of the artist © David Hockney. Photograph by Richard Schmidt. Used with permission by National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
11 Nov 16 – 13 March 17
Open 10AM-5PM daily
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What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level