Tate Britain, David Hockney (Research)

Peter Getting Out of Nick's Pool, 1966, Hockney
Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool, 1966, Hockney

Today I saw Hockney’s work at the Tate Britain in London. This exhibitions shows a variety of his work over the period of 60 years, and although I didn’t think that his work would be of much relevance to my current work, mainly going to see it out of curiosity after hearing people’s good reviews, there were some elements of it which have inspired me and which I would like to use to influence my own work.

I like the way in which Hockney uses a variety of different styles in his work, changing them to achieve different feelings and effects. His use of colour is something which stands out, as well as his bold use of geometry and patterns.

Toothpaste, Hockney

After an initial taster of Hockney’s art and styles in the first room, the adjoining room showed Hockney’s art to be more painterly and expressive, exploring themes of emotions like love and shame, and also being personal to him through expressing his relationships.  The incorporation of writing within his work show a sort of stream-of-thought, seemingly describing his ideas behind the piece or emotions at the time. A memorable piece in this room is the painting of two men in a 69 position, their penises replaces by squirting tubes of toothpaste and a tube of vaseline visible. Hockney isn’t afraid to express whatever he likes, and the openness gay nature of his work is something which can be respected.

I love the intimacy which he manages to portray, and his paintings of people seem well observed and emotive, as though he has a lot of love and respect for his subjects and tries to portray their natural beauty.

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972, Hockney

Hockney’s recognisable pool paintings are great examples of his use of geometry and unique shapes, from the wavy lines in water to the grids of windows and tiles, and the horizontal lines of the pool. Hockney successfully manages to capture the movement of water despite his paintings seeming somewhat 2D due to the frequent flat, block use of colours. These colours, however, are what makes the pieces so pleasing for the viewer (along with the repetition of certain shapes or lines). These features draw your focus to particular parts. The scenes seem so serene and beautiful, and Hockney’s use of borders emphasises the artificiality of the scenes depicted. These pool-based paintings can be seen to satirise the abstract art that was dominant at the time.

Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott, 1969, Hockney
Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott, 1969, Hockney

After simplified and sometimes cartoon-like painting, Hockney delves into the realms of naturalism, adding a lot of detail and textures. In the 1960s, Hockney created large-scale paintings of couples and interactions, in which the positioning is well planned and pleasing to the eye. Hockney uses the formality of traditional portraiture to capture informal poses. Intimate relationships can be captures, some of them seeming to display tension, such as in ‘Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott,’ 1969. Despite many of them not seeming too intimate, due to the preplanned, constructed poses and positioning, these scenes are also somewhat intrusive in the way that they give us a view into the lives of the couples, often depicting parts of their houses and possessions within. ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),’ 1972 seems so beautiful due to the natural scenery and wide range of colours, from his boyfriend’s pink jacket to the vivid greens, blues and purples of the hills behind. The face seems well-observed, and so his affection for his boyfriend (near the time of their break-up), and the scene seems peaceful. Again, white wavy lines in the water suggest movement, and the line of the pool divides the painting into two, making the vertical male figure stand out from the vertical pool lines and swimmer.

Ossie Wearing a Fairisle Sweater, 1970, Hockney
Ossie Wearing a Fairisle Sweater, 1970, Hockney

Hockney’s ink drawings seem more illustrative than the previous pieces displayed in the gallery, but they are brilliantly observed and incredibly beautiful, due to the intimacy of them. You can see the love which he has put into the drawing of his mother. His crayon drawings are also impressive, and it seems as though Hockney can take any media and turn it into something incredible. The subtle mixture of colours in his crayon portraits and observations add a sense of depth and capture people such as his boyfriends in different locations, e.g. when travelling. I would like to try using coloured pencils to the same effect as Hockney, as they are a medium which I have never been able to capture emotion from. They would link well to my project as they area a medium often associated with children. However, using them like Hockney makes them seem more sophisticated and interesting.

Hockney Collage

Next, Hockney experiments with photography, using grids of polaroids to photograph things at different angles, to give a variety of angles, thus reminding the viewer of the cubist style of artists like Picasso. After being disappointed with the borders left on the film, he started using to 35mm film and sticking them together to create collages of scenes. I loved the photographs of his mother, as the angles which he had used seemed to show it from his viewpoint, as though you were looking at her yourself, and the addition of his shoes at the bottom added to the feeling of being part of the collages photographs.

Going up Garrowby Hill, 2000, Hockney
Going up Garrowby Hill, 2000, Hockney

Hockney also experimented with multiple perspectives in his own work, exaggerating different perspectives and using viewpoints which do not seem to naturally fit together, e.g lengthening the trees and steepness of the road in ‘Going up Garrowby Hill,’ 2000. In these works he seems to create and illusion of depth.

May Blossom on the Roman Road, Hockney
May Blossom on the Roman Road, Hockney

The 2006 paintings of the Wolds show large-scale paintings of trees and greenery, and the bold and experiment use of colours are brilliant. From pale blue shadows to patches of bright red under trees and dashed skies curving in different directions, remniscient of those of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’.

Hockney’s further experimental methods of capturing art and multiple perspectives is shown through his film pieces of the Four Seasons. These multiple-screen video works capture the view from the outside of a vehicle from different angles collaged together on a collection of screens. Although these pieces are fairly simplistic, they capture the beauty of the setting and draw on his previous work with perspective. These video clips reminded me of Do Ho Suh’s recent exhibition at the Victoria Miro gallery, and the GoPro videos attached to his daughter’s pram in two different countries, recording the surroundings from 3 angles.

iPad painting, Hockney

The final room is very different, showing Hockney’s most recent work, which takes the form of digital art. Hockney has used drawing on software on his iPhone and iPad to create artwork, acting like a personal sketchbook. Here, we can see his observations of different scenes, such as the views from his bedroom window and landscapes, as well as still lifes and portraiture. His larger iPad drawings, composed from several drawings put together, are impressive, and proportion seems to come naturally to him. The display of these works is interesting as we are able to see his drawing process through the replay of the iPad or iPhone drawing process. The build up, texture and different brush strokes, size and transparency are apparent, highlighting his attention to detail.

This exhibition is definitely worth seeing. The diversity of work displayed is impressive, and seeing pieces in real life and being able to see the application of paint, etc. is much better that seeing photographs in a book or online. This gallery has inspired me, and I am now considering different ways in which I can use different technology in my own work on ‘Upper Age Limits’ to capture certain things, e.g. I could use an iPad and an etch  sketch to show technological developments in my life time or get people of different ages to use them. I also want to try using bold colours in my own works, perhaps creating a series of photographs with bright colour where there usually wouldn’t be much, as this resembles the conventions of children’s drawings. I also want to try drawing using crayons and try to achieve a lot of detail.


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