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David Hockney: The visionary contemplations of an elusive master
By Andrew Bay, UK
Throughout his career, David Hockney has been able to create remarkable work which has mesmerised and audiences the world over. But don't let the fact that he casually wears red and green ties, blue jackets over white jumpers and golden glasses everyday, deceive you. He is still as passionate about producing fascinating paintings as he is about his clothing stylish quirkiness: Hockney is able to capture the light of the changing seasons both in his paintings and in the way he dresses up.
He has been living in Normandy, on the North West coast of France since 2018. This new environment has inspired him to fill his house with large photographs of flowering branches, upside-down plants blossoms, a drizzly small lake and a tree lodge. They formed the basis of his last splendid exhibition, called The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020.
For a young Hockney, there wasn't much else to paint but an architectural landscape mostly smudged by soot and coal. And that's what he did: there wasn't a lot of colour. But he had an epiphany at a Van Gogh exhibition curated in Manchester in 1954. Years later, Hockney fondly remembered that he had been amazed by the piercing blues Van Gogh had used in his paintings, as if the skies had been "exposed against their will," he once said, "truly a wonderful sight to behold."
Hockney's body of work continuously revisits the themes which he intuitively recognised in Van Gogh's paintings on that day: a lengthy pursuit for a brighter sun, bolder colours and clean light, vibrantly passionate and moving art. As soon as he got into primary school in Bradford, he knew he wanted to be an artist; he took every class he could to learn about drawing, sketching and colouring, and after completing his secondary school exams, he left his hometown for a London art college. He visited New York for the first time, decided to dye his hair blond and and made a promise to himself to come back to the US when he would be rich and famous.
As an artist, the individual character of his work started to become more discernible; he openly disclosed his homosexuality, and started to playfully incorporate perspective as the key building block of his stylistic development. In doing so, Hockney discovered the key characteristics of the themes he would explore in depth over the coming years: domesticity, interior design, intimacy in relationships, portraiture, sexuality, and the interplay between reality and illusion.
Following in Matisse's footsteps, Hockney wants to fashion a personal universe of delicate beauty that needs painting.
In the summer of 2018, Hockney decided to drive through the Normandy countryside, on his way to a retrospective curated in his honour in Paris. He was struck by the peculiar radiance of the green horizons surrounding him and the bright golden sun, setting behind the hills over yonder at dusk. He deplores that in France in particular, the art of painting has been caught in a cultural deadlock for several years now.
As he says, "I still love waking up as early as I can to capture the morning light, like Renoir and Manet."