David Hockney is widely regarded as one of the most successful and recognisable artists of the modern day.
80 years old and still creating masterpieces, Hockney is very much still alive and kicking. It was perhaps somewhat of a surprise to learn that Tate Britain would be curating yet another retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work whilst the artist in question was still living. We popped along one Friday to reflect on his greatest works, as well as see some never before seen and brand new pieces.
Sprawled out across 13 rooms, and encompassing more than 100 works, the exhibition chronologically tracks Hockney’s career to date. Starting with his Love paintings from 1960-1961, each room explores the witty and brilliant intervention of Hockney’s first two decades of work, as well as encompassing his celebrated Yorkshire landscapes from the 2000s and work created since his return from California in 2013.
Hockney’s iconic series of portraits are also on display, including the 1968 painting of the playwright Christopher Isherwood and his partner Don Bachardy and the much loved Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy from 1970. Alongside the intimate portrayal of his own parents, each portrait also provides an insight into the varied, bohemian interiors of his friends' homes; from the floral upholstered armchair in his 1963 painting Domestic Scene: Los Angeles to the simple utilitarianism of the interior portrayed in George Lawson and Wayne Sleep from 1972-5.
It goes without saying that his LA paintings of swimming pools draws in a crowd, and they are quite mesmerising on closer inspection; the hypnotic swirls suggesting the motion of rippling water and the vibrancy of the Californian sun. However, his photographic work is also a great achievement, playing with the idea of representing all that the eye can see, not just the snapshot a single painting portrays. Each collage reveals an intimate scene; a game of cards, a naked swim around a pool, all through the use of individual polaroid prints, collated together to reveal the bigger picture. They are quite mesmerising and reveal a truth.
Hockney’s later work, the Yorkshire Landscapes, are monumental in scale and highly effective. The digital versions of his photographic collages reveal a real-time view of the changing seasons and how nature conquers all. This room alone is worth the visit, perfect in providing a quiet escape from the city’s bustle.
Tate Britain’s retrospective shows Hockney as an intelligent and profound interrogator of the essence of art; his strengths lying in a plethora of artistic mediums. His work and life balance seems to blend effortless together, he an embodiment of his work and his work an embodiment of his life. And whilst this is a retrospective, the exhibition is alive and beating strong. What remains left to be answered is, will Hockney make it a hat-trick and be the first artist to have three retrospectives of his career at Tate Britain? There’s still life in him yet…