David Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain

I visited this exhibition, along with what seemed to be much of the population of London, because I particularly wanted to look at Hockney’s landscapes. I was also very interested in seeing at first hand, his photomontages, especially Pearblossom Highway, which I have written about elsewhere within this blog. I was interested to see all of Hockney’s work, but the sheer numbers of visitors allowed in at any one time made it very difficult to concentrate on the paintings or even get close to some of them.

For this blog, however, I will look specifically at his landscape work. The guide book issued by the Tate, in its introduction, says "From beginning to end, running through all the different types and periods of work is Hockney’s principal obsession with the challenge of representation: how do we see the world, and how can that world of time and space be captured in two dimensions?"

Most of the landscapes were in the later rooms of the exhibition, particularly in Room 8 "Experiences of Space" and Room 9  "Experiences of Place". The gallery guide notes how "in these works flatness collides with illusion of spatial depth. But above all, these are paintings through which the eye dances, drawn by a sensuousness of line and colour wet edges of viewpoints fold into and across each other."

A good example from the "Experiences of Space" room is Nichols Canyon 1980.

In a similar style in "Experiences of Place"  is Going up Garrowby Hill 2000, here the gallery guide talks about Hockney creating "An illusion of depth by the use of the foreground plain (plane?) on which were arrayed objects, whether bails (bales?) of wheat or small desert bushes " .

I think that these paintings provide a good example of one of Hockney’s approaches to dealing with perspective In a two-dimensional art form. The shapes and lines within the painting give a real sense of movement whilst the colours add energy. The extremely high horizon line in Going up Garrowby Hill gives a real sense of the scenery enveloping the viewer, and the curves of the road as it goes up the hill leads one into the picture and gives a sense of depth . This is described by Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times(1) as "Here landscape is abstracted into interlocking arabesques of crimsons, purples, lush greens. Edges of viewpoints fold into and across each other, roads wind through luminous terrains where flatness collides with illusions of spatial depth".

It was interesting to see how Hockney had approached this concept of representation and perspective within landscape paintings. Some of these methods are not available to the photographer, but some, as with his photomontage, are.

I’m not one of Hockney’s greatest fans, but I do find his questioning of perspective and how he deals with the issue within painting very interesting.It was a great opportunity to see so much of his work in one place, it’s such a shame there were so many others enjoying it at the same time.

I spent some time studying his photomontages, particularly Pearblossom Highway, and will write about this separately.

(1)  https://www.ft.com/content/27840aaa-ef1d-11e6-ba01-119a44939bb6?mhq5j=e1