David Hockney paints "Bigger Picture" at new London show
By Anna Tomforde Jan 20, 2012, 2:06 GMT
London - A new exhibition of outsize landscape paintings by leading British artist David Hockney, which opens in London this week, gives visitors the feeling of being on a country walk amid trees painted in hues of vivid blue, orange and pink.
At the age of 74, Hockney, the former star of British pop art who made his name in the 1960s and 70s with his paintings of pools and palm trees in sunny California, has re-engaged emphatically with the landscape of his native Yorkshire, in northern England.
The exhibition, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, takes over the entire space of London's renowned Royal Academy of Arts, with most of the 150 items on show produced especially for the landmark show over the past five years.
After returning home from California in 2005 he had realized his 'strong attachment' to the landscape of his youth, Hockney said in interviews accompanying the launch of the exhibition.
When, two years later, the Royal Academy offered him to stage a show of predominantly new works, he felt excited. 'It was a great boost,' Hockney told the BBC.
'If you're my age and you find something exciting, you stick with it.'
Initially, the gallery had wanted to stage the exhibition in 2011, Hockney revealed. But he insisted that 2012 should be the date 'because I needed four springs.'
For the visitor, the sheer size of the Hockney paintings - some up to 10 metres long - and the vibrancy of the yellow-green fields, orange timbers, purple trunks and electric-blue trees - set against distance and space - are overpowering.
'The show is a massive, bracing country walk,' wrote London's Evening Standard newspaper.
Over the past five years, the artist returned again and again to the same copses, lanes and fields to capture the changing seasons. His works, said the Royal Academy, were the product of observation, memory and imagination, assisted by visual and technological aids.
Landscape painting, said Hockney, may have gone out of fashion. 'But we are part of nature, and it is up to us to revive it, look at it afresh. I've taken on that challenge, and I think I have responded to it.'
The exhibition is dominated by the massive oil painting The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire, in 2011 - a painting on 32 canvasses, recording the transition from winter to spring.
The remaining three walls of the largest exhibition room are covered by over 50 large-scale iPad drawings printed on paper, underlining the artist's enthusiastic adoption of new technology as an image-making tool.
Hockney has described the iPad as his new sketchbook, praising the speed of the medium as 'terrific, like an endless sheet of paper.'
Among other exhibition highlights are: Hockney's 1998 painting, A Closer Grand Canyon, an oil painting on 60 canvasses; and The Sermon of the Mount, his 2009 version of a painting by 17th century French artist Claude Lorrain.
Hockney, whose landscapes have been hailed as the most ambitious look at the British countryside since 19th century masters John Constable and J M W Turner, dismisses recent accolades of him being Britain's greatest living artist.
'It doesn't mean too much to me actually. I live in a remote place, I intend to stay in it, I'm not very social,' he said, drawing nervously on his cigarette.
David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, opens on January 21, continuing through April 9, before it travels to Bilbao and Cologne, Germany.