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.
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.
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.