Celebrating my birthday with David Hockney is becoming a tradition. Well, I’ve done it twice if that can counts as a tradition. In 2012 I was thrilled by the fabulous ‘A Bigger Picture’ exhibition at The Royal Academy. It remains one of the most memorable exhibitions I’ve been too. This year I went along to see the exhibition celebrating 60 years of his work currently showing at Tate Britain.
David Hockney is almost 80, and this exhibition brings together an extensive selection of his most famous works celebrating his achievements in painting, drawing, print, photography and video across six decades.
I find myself especially drawn to the Californian paintings from the 1960’s. The way Hockney captures the Californian light is spectacular, he paints skies and swimming pools so blue I want to dive right in. Sun light shimmers and dances off the water in these paintings amidst an array of vivid blues and greens that seem to intensify the long you look.
During the 1990’s, Hockney painted vast spaces of the American landscape with much attention given to the Grand Canyon. I cannot imagine how one could begin to paint something so vast, and yet Hockney does. He does it so well that the unbearable blazing heat is palpable with colours so bright I found them scorching to look at. Burnt orange, ochres and deep reds capture the climate perfectly. Viewing these paintings whilst in a cool English climate somehow jarred.
I often sribble notes in the little guides you get given when I’m wandering around exhibitions. It helps me capture what I’m feeling at the time. In the page of my guide which describes the room housing the pictures Hockney painted in 2006 of the landscape of the Yorkshire wolds, I have written “This room makes me happy”. On reflection I think what I was feeling was familiarity. Yorkshire is not a county I know especially well and yet these glorious paintings captured a light and space which was was more recognisable and certainly more calming
The joy of the British chainging seasons is displayed brilliantly on four huge video screens. Each screen shows the same road during a different season. Cameras were attached to vehicles and driven along the road so that each scene is constantly moving. It was joyful and completely mesmerising.
It was an absolute treat to see so many inspiring works of art in one place, and so interesting to see how David Hockney has been influenced and changed styles and directions over the decades. I felt stirred by so many of these paintings. That to me is a sign of a very good exhibition.
I went along on the first day of the Easter school holidays which wasn’t perhaps the best time as it was incredibly busy but I was able to block out the crowds, and as is the way with exhibitions, once you move away from the first couple of rooms the crowds tend to thin anyway. The exhibition is on until 29th May so there is still plenty of time to catch it if you can.
Images all via Tate Britain.