Hockney at the Tate Britain

posted in: Inspiration, Uncategorized | 12

We went to see the new David Hockney exhibition at the Tate Britain. 

On his 80th birthday we can celebrate perhaps our greatest living artist. Yorkshire man, wit, of respectable working class origins, innovative and gay – he has always impressed me with his amazingly versatile approach to landscape, portraiture and especially his interest in the technical side of art.

I had never seen much of his early work and there were a couple of rooms full of his art from his time as a student at the Royal College – much of it directed to male homosexuality at a time when it was illegal in Britain.

We two boys together clinging

I told Esme that we had really enjoyed the exhibition. She said “The Guardian gave it three stars”. I quickly showed Ted some of the photos I had taken at the exhibition. “Well I like the pictures” he replied. I am with Ted on this one. The glorious Californian landscapes are created with diluted oil paints creating the strongest, most vibrant hues. The two bottom pictures are of the blue veranda outside Hockney’s home with their red struts and lush vegetation.

I love the brilliance of the colour, the perspectives, the subject matter and the joy. I think that when all is said and done Hockney just loves looking at things – people, place, sunlight and water. I can relate to this simple pleasure of his and his willingness to use whatever is to hand – polaroids, iPads, crayons, video, photographs, – to create the most arresting images. He shares with Picasso (who is his hero – and mine…) a willingness to use different media and styles to suit the subject rather than just sticking to one approach.

There is not much there about fashion apart from that very famous picture of Ossie Clark and his wife.

Mr and Mrs Ossie Clark and Percy

There were other images of the designer couple, in the days when the designer couple was not yet “a thing”. Celia Birtwell and her husband Ossie Clark were both famous for their fabrics (her contribution) and dresses (he was a great designer and pattern cutter). The Hockney painting of them at home in London, with their cat, is one of the most viewed paintings in the Tate. The new exhibition features a painting of Celia in a shaped black (satin?) jacket and a full white skirt. Ossie, languid in an arm-chair wears a Fair Isle jersey. This pair shaped the fashions of the 1960s and 1970s in London, creating wonderful languid full length dresses with bias cut sleeves and lots of contrasting pattern. And Hockney himself set new fashions – bleaching his hair, wearing loud and deliberate spectacles and dressing in beautiful suits and lots of colour.

I don’t know about you, but I always got Hockney and Alan Bennett mixed up. They are both amazing Yorkshiremen who have created so much to enjoy in art, theatre, comedy and literature. Here’s to the aged, sexually diverse, working class, radical, shocking, self-deprecating, observant and funny Englishmen of their generation who have enriched our lives.

And yes, Ted and I recommend the exhibition, which opens today.

12 Responses

  1. Sewingwithkate

    Very jealous, I have been hearing a lot about this exhibition on the BBC. Only sorry I am so far away. I visited Saltaire last time I was home and if you ever venture north it’s absolutely worth a look. Strangely, there is also a photograph of Hockney & Bennett together. I am also an enormous Bennett fan too – it’s a Yorkshire thing perhaps!!

  2. BMGM

    He’s not just a good painter, he’s a great teacher. I highly recommend all his authorized biographies because they contain so much detail about his thought processes and experiments.

    Ditto that on Secret Knowledge. I took 3 semesters of Art History and met my husband across a laser optics table. As soon as I heard Hockney’s hypothesis, I understood why we see so many left handed people in paintings yet do not find as many left handed implements of the same vintage. That left-handed thing had bothered me ever since childhood. (I had been made to write with my right hand in kindergarten and never really grasped why being left-handed is wrong.)

    We saw two of his retrospectives 2-3 yrs apart and, Wow. We couldn’t believe how much he did between the 2 shows. That man does not stand still.

  3. Christine_a

    so glad somebody else gets Hockney and Bennett mixed up ! Thanks for an in-depth review.

  4. eimear

    I love the variety and development of his work. I saw some etchings he did for some fairy tales that were completely different again some years ago. There was also a lovely tv documentary of his painting of yorkshire and it was a refreshing piece – and well able to take on large canvases still

  5. Joyce Latham

    Thanks Kate! I too love Hockney ‘s work. You are so lucky to have seen this exhibit. You have made me realize, I need to get to the art gallery more then I have as of lately. I just love his portraits. Have a great day.
    Joyce from Sudbury

  6. Lynn Mally

    And I am always reminded of my sunny Southern California when I see his work! (Well, now it’s raining, but in general.) And thanks for the help with Stitcher’s Guild. I am giving up.

  7. Jenny

    I’m hoping to be able to get to see this exhibition. We live in East Yorkshire and know the scenes of many of his works well. They really seem to capture what I love about the landscape. I was lucky enough to see Bigger Trees Near Warter several times when it toured locally, at both York and Hull. I also visited Saltaire last year (it’s very near where my son now lives), and I can highly recommend it. I bought a couple of prints of our local landscape which cheer me up on grey days like today, although the Californian ones would probably be better for that! What I admire is the brilliance of his art technically combined with the ease for everyone, whether an expert or not, to understand and appreciate it on many levels, like a good book.

    (Note to the spell-checker: the “r” in Warter is correct, it’s the name of a place, not a body of wet stuff.)

  8. Annie

    I heard the review on Front Row the exhibition had quite an impact n the reviewer.

    I too get the two artistes conflated, I’m also thinking Martin Kemp is morphing into Alan Cumming but that could be my eyesight.

  9. Seamsoddlouise

    As I student the digs I lived in had a large David Hockney print in the living room. I could stare at it for hours. Inspired to visit, thank you for the review. Louise

  10. The Material Lady

    The Management and I are going this weekend. I’m glad you enjoyed it, as I’m sure I will too.
    It’s odd how alike Hockney and Bennett are. I frequently mistake them in photographs. The Management claims that Hockney looks ‘more cool’. Not sure he could tell the difference at a glance either if he is being honest.

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