Friday, July 03, 2009

David Hockney - recent exhibitions

This is an overview of recent work by David Hockney. It highlights two current exhibitions and also provides a review of one of them - the exhibition of David Hockney's work Drawing in a Printing Machine at Annely Juda Fine Art - which I saw last week.

This post also includes lots of links to places where you can images of his recent work the Internet.

Where you can see Hockney's recent work

Hockney has been painting trees and Yorkshire for the last four years and latterly has been developing digital art using a drawing tablet.

Somewhat surprisingly, there are virtually no images of his current work on the official website Hockney Pictures. Or at least that's what you think.....until you start to dig through the exhibition pages - at which point you can find a number of the recent paintings executed in Yorkshire - but not all.

Here are some of the places where you can see Hockney's work from the last few years. Click the hyperlinks to see images of some of the works in the exhibitions

Front Cover of the Catalogue for the Just Nature exhibition
  • David Hockney - Just Nature - Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall 27th April 2009 – 27th September 2009 (Note: This is INCORRECTLY assigned to dates in 2008 on the official Hockney Pictures website). This is a major exhibition of over 70 new Yorkshire landscape paintings, drawings and prints. For those wanting to visit this is a link to its location (east of Heidelburg and north of Stuttgart). The catalogue for this exhibition is available from the publishers Swiridoff. I was able to buy my copy this week at Tate Britain. It's horrendously expensive (about twice the normal cost of a hardback catalogue) - but that's probably because it's two books in one - one half is in German and the other half is in English. I'll be reviewing this on Making A Mark Reviews tomorrow
Hockney’s somewhat unreal-looking version of “realism” arises from the combination of emotion and perspective in his painting. In order to capture a motif as a whole, he not only relies on continual shifts from close-up to distant viewpoints but on a gradual development of the picture, which often consists of several equal-sized canvases. In this way, he creates extended formats that enable the viewer to virtually roam through the picture. The eye is drawn so close to the visual scenes that we have the feeling of actually standing inside the unframed views. In addition, there are entire series of works in which the artist observes selected landscape motifs at different times of day or different seasons and depicts his impressions with great precision. The colours, that change with the intensity of the sunlight, are translated into colourful, energetic images that reflect the immediacy of natural light.
David Hockney Just Nature. - Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall (Preview)
  • David Hockney - Drawing in a Printing Machine - LA Louver, Venice, California 26th February - 28th March 2009
  • David Hockney - Drawing in a Printing Machine - Annely Juda, London. 1 May - 11 July 2009 - see review below. This is different from the exhibition in California due to a new set of portraits also being shown.
  • David Hockney - Looking at Woldgate Woods - The Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago Il 25th April - 18th July, 2008 - multi canvas works of a view of Woldgate Woods through the seasons
  • Hockney on Turner Watercolours - Tate Britain, June 11, 2007 - January 20, 2008. This included an exhibition of the series of multi-panel works of Woldgate Woods - which he was seen painting in the David Hockney - A Bigger Picture documentary
  • Summer Exhibition 2007, Royal Academy of Art - feature spot for Bigger Trees near Warter - 50 canvases making up a work which is 180" x 480"
  • David Hockney - A Year in Yorkshire - Annely Juda Fine Art (exhibited 15 September - 28 October 2006) - go to Previous Exhibitions and scroll down and then click the link to see images of all the work displayed. These pictures are oils on canvas and were painted when Hockney returned to Yorkshire due to the illness of family members.
Hockney painted these works over the last year from July 2005. The paintings span the four seasons through the scorched landscape of summer, the autumn mists, frozen winter scenes and the blossoming of spring. They were painted in East Yorkshire, outside in the countryside he knows and loves so well.
The watercolours in Hand Eye Heart are the result of Hockney’s extended visits to East Yorkshire during late 2003 and 2004. This landscape first engaged the artist’s imagination as a teenager when he worked the fields, stooking corn.

Hockney’s embrace of watercolour affords him the ability to capture the subtleties of the ever-changing weather patterns and diffused light of the northern landscape. Venturing out on long drives with paintbrushes and small pots of paint in hand, Hockney made small watercolour studies in a notebook. Later in the studio, he worked up the studies to large paintings, using single or double sheets of thick paper that support the swaths of watercolour paint and layering of colour.
Drawing in a Printing Machine (Annely Juda 1 May - 11 July 2009)

The main lesson for me from this exhibition is that digital art is just like any other art - the quality of the outcome very much depends on the artist who is wielding the stylus. Good artists - who have learned how to use Photoshop - can produce good digital art. Bad artists produce bad art no matter what media they use!

Hockney has discovered what can be done using Photoshop with modern computers. They now do what he wants them to do and can 'redraw' and keep up with the speed of his drawing.

All the works in the exhibition are giclee prints of Hockney/computer generated files - printed (I understand) using Epson printers on archival paper. As he points out they're not photographic reproductions. They only exist because Hockney created them in a computer. The artwork is being produced as signed limited edition prints in small editions of between 7 and 30.

This exhibition comprises
  • landscapes (4th floor) - most of which were previously exhibited in Los Angeles (see below)
  • portraits of colleagues and friends in the UK (3rd floor) - being exhibited for the first time.
Click on the installation shots on the Annely Juda website page for the exhibition to see what they all look like in the exhibition. A fully illustrated 72 page hardback catalogue is available on request.

The catalogue opens with a photograph of him sat in front of the biggest Mac screen drawing on the biggest digital graphics drawing tablet money can buy - and he's creating art in just the same way as he would do if he was painting in oils or drawing portraits with coloured pencils.

: There are 10 landscapes from Hockney’s Yorkshire homeland. These include Less Trees 2009 the work produced after he arrived at a copse near Warter that he'd been painting through the seasons only to discover that this was in fact commercial timber and it had all been felled - see The Guardian - David Hockney, the fallen beech trees and the lost canvas. This then his new giclee print "Less trees near Warter" Saturday 21 March / Sunday 22 March 2009
inkjet printed computer drawing on paper
(which is not in the catalogue but is on the Annely Juda website)

I liked the combination of slightly soliarised photos of trees combined with 'digitally drawn' backgrounds. Even the most photographic of the works is not in fact a photo, it's a collage of photos with digital drawing on top. It's so big it took me a bit of time to work how he'd done it - but I got there in the end! :)

A fellow gallery visitor and I both agreed that we much preferred Autumn Leaves in the large print mounted on dibond rather than the same but smaller image as a framed giclee print - with deep white edge - where we both felt it lost impact.

You can also see a couple of images of the landscapes on the internet version of the exhibition review done for the Financial Times - David Hockney, Annely Juda Fine Art, London

Portraits: The sitters for the portraits include Hockney's brother, his sister and friends and colleagues. Hockney won't take commissions and only draws or paint the people he knows. I thought it interesting that a number of them (eg Paul Hockney, his brother) are drawn in a pose which shows them using technology to keep themselves occupied while sitting. Obviously the modern solution to keeping the model awake as Hockney does not make small talk while he paints portraits.

I couldn't work out whether or he not he started from photographs or not. It's certainly the case that proportions look good - but then they also look very much like his oil and watercolour portraits of friends which rather suggests this is more down to the skills of the artist. Interestingly, despite the fact he's working with digital brushes and pens/pencils he takes a very similar approach to working in other media. Torso, limbs and surrounds are simple and sketchily presented - big shapes rather than lots of detail which are sometimes blurry. Hockney loves drawing - and he pays a lot of attention to drawing the heads and the face. This is where his markmarking reminded me very much of his coloured pencil portraits. He's really making the most of the scope in terms of tools on offer for different types and width of marks made.

Interestingly the 18 portraits on display are exhibition specials and have been framed without glass so that they look rather like box canvases. In reality those buying these limited edition prints will be getting a work which has a white border - with the all important limited edition numbering and the signature - and a glazed frame.

I feel quite strongly that Hockney has more work to do in identifying how best to display the work and present it in an archival format. There's scope to create a new way of displaying digital prints and I'm sure he'll work what this is!

You can read other reviews of this exhibition:

I can't help thinking that David Hockney is now painting his roots (no pun intended) - in oil and in digital media - and for posterity. He's of an age when one never knows just how long the ability to paint plein air will last. This particular exhibition have me the impression that he now wants to create a body of work about Yorkshire in a variety of media - watercolour, oil and now digital artwork based on photographs.

For me, in an odd sort of way he captures the essence of the landscape much more so than those who are painting in a completely realistic way. He distorts perspective and yet makes it seem more real. He doesn't pay attention to every last detail and is economical with his mark-making - and yet makes us see landscapes again and in a fresh way.

I do however feel that his work benefits enormously from being seen in a series. I'm reminded very much of what I learned about Monet when I was researching his series - about how an exhibition of work on a theme has its own identity and provides an enhanced sense of the resonance of individual pieces. It's certainly the case when you see the series of paintings of Yorkshire trees that you get a sense of the whole being bigger than the sum of the individual parts.

If you're interested in David Hockney, you can find a lot more information about him and his work in my information site - David Hockney - Resources for Artists



  1. Interesting and informative post, Katherine. I thought the recent documentary on Hockney was excellent - I love his Yorkshire landscapes for their simplicity. Agree with you about how he makes the scenes look real despite distorting the perspective.

  2. I think Hockney should be paying you a commission. This is a rich and wonderful post of what he's been up to. I saw the WOLDGATE WOODS exhibit in Chicago last year and the scale of the work is HUGE. But I think my favorite work of his lately are the quiet sketchbook watercolors of East Yorkshire. Thanks for a great post.


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