David Hockney: A Bigger Picture @ the Royal Academy

11 March 2012

I was out in woods and fields all day yesterday which set me up nicely to go this morning to the Royal Academy for ‘David Hockney: A Bigger Picture’, an enormous exhibition of recent landscapes of the Yorkshire Wolds where he now lives.

Over the years I’ve been to various Hockney exhibitions and never felt a thing. Blank. Here I chatted to a curator who gave some reasons:

  1.  The paintings are immediately there with little or no friction, quick and easy to swallow.
  2. The tonal range is limited – lots of violent reds and purples and greens which get very samey.
  3. They’re soulless: big, slick, there are hundreds and hundreds of them, but no one image struck me, shook me.

That said, we all liked the roomful of ipad art best, images he drew on an ipad, then printed blown-up. There was more attention to the detail of flowers and leaf shapes, trees and puddles, than in the huge oil paintings. Paradoxically, though, the biggest painting of all, ‘The arrival of spring in Woldgate’, was wonderful and, along with a handful in the last, cramped room in the same style, had much more balance and abstraction, like a book illustration or an opera set.

Regardless of my petty preferences, for a man approaching his 75th birthday, the exhibition is an amazing, inspiring achievement.

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture

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