David Hockney

Exhibition: Current at the NGV

I recommend David Hockney’s extraordinary exhibition in Melbourne – till 13 March 2017.

To my own surprise, this exhibition is better than I thought it would be.

I was an early admirer of David Hockney’s early drawings, prints and photographs. I also took to his Los Angeles works – having a pool print on my wall at home plus a poster of his photographic collage Pearblossom Highway. I once had a poster of an early drawing of Celia siting peacefully- but the loss of that cherish work is another story.

I had observed all the marketing, seen many of the articles and viewed many images online of David Hockney’s iPad or iPhone drawings. Yes I was curious but was not sure whether I would take to these latest works.

So with some hesitations I entered this exhibition at the state gallery of Victoria (NGV). Then came the first room.

Putting aside that the room was swamped with a large group of young school children armed with iPads who were activity moving around the whole room constantly holding up there iPads to take photos but spending almost no time at all actually looking at the art of the walls – the room was amazing. Good amazing that is.

I often say that ‘less is more’. In this case having the works pinned in two rows around the outside of the whole room was a great solution. This man is so prolific and by showing the works, iPad generated and printed large, as the NGV had done, presented gem after gem to be admired.

So much of the work harked back to previous works – the subject matter had not changed that much. The technique had – but was based on the fabulous skills and expertise that David Hockney has as an artists and someone who can draw. So in the case of these drawings with an iPad, it is the same artist, same set of skills, same aesthetic but resolved through the use of very contemporary techniques.

It worked for me. I can image people balking at the whole process, but for me the treatment of the subject matter was as beautiful and much the same as Hockney has been doing ever since I have been aware of his work.

In the course of visiting this exhibition, I returned to this first room two more times. It was worth it – with something new to see each time (and no children with iPads).

The next room had the large painted collages of trees. In a word wonderful. Much better than I had expected.

The long room of portraits was engaging. But besides looking at a few people I recognised or had heard about – I cannot say it was the most engaging experience. Good – and I could understand why some people say they did not like these works – or did not like the mass production on exhibition.

It was the landscape in the next rooms that really worked wonders. Especially those with water pools, and those of Yosemite. I could see that people spent quite a bit of time in these rooms. Many watching the live action drawings of Hockney making enlarged iPad drawings.

David Hockney definitely knows how to deliver a well drawn landscape.

In the last room were four large video panels – each with the same road, each being captures on nine video cameras simultaneously and each of different seasons along the same country road. The results are beautiful.

As you may have gathered. Liked most of this exhibition a lot. I walked back through it and thus took the time to see the exhibition three times. Each time works presented differently and there was something new to enjoy or you enjoyed again something you saw the first time.

A great experience – and a big thanks to David Hockney – and to the NGV.

Now to find someone to support my trip to London to see the David Hockney exhibition at the TATE.

There is commentary on Hockney by John McDonald in the Sydney Morning Herald – click here –  or the same review published on his blog – click here.

Another background commentary- click here.

The Conversation has a good piece – click here.


Marketing Opportunity waiting to happen.

The National Gallery in Canberra has a very large David Hockney collage painting of the Grand Canyon. Why not commit some special resources and market this as a destination work? Yes, not everyone likes it. But they also still carry on about Blue Poles – and yet they head for it straight away.

So while there is this high interest in David Hockney – why not ramp up that marketing and publicity around this and other key holdings of David Hockney – and maybe people will come by just to see them – and take in other works from the collection exhibitions.

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