A lively debate in the cold – David Hockney gets OCA students talking
We had a lively visit to the Hockney exhibition last week with OCA tutors David Winning and Tony Hogan. The tutors didn’t share the same views on Hockney’s work, which added to the debate afterwards as we huddled together in the Royal Academy forecourt. All this added to the quality of the reflections students had after the event, some of which are published below.
I managed to produce 24 pages of studies and written work on this exhibition and have two distinct feelings about the work on show. The first is awe because of the sheer size of the landscapes. I was energised and excited by the use of colours in his work, completed with expressive brush strokes painted as if the world was about to end or at least the next Yorkshire rain burst was about to fall. This looseness gave you a feeling as if many of the artworks were sketches recording the moment as Hockney experienced it. The highlight of the exhibition for me was the iPad art. These works obviously lacked texture but to compensate for this the differing amount of mark making within each one left you studying every corner of their picture plane and reminded me of Hockney’s message – observe, observe and observe. The image that made the greatest impression on me was the large “The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011” which had a completely different feel and design to it than the others, taking Hockney’s stylisation to the extreme. It was on this painting that the most amount of layering and reworking could be seen, which satisfies my urges as a painter for thick paint! This painting also stood out because of the contrast between it and the racks of 51 printed out ipad paintings on display in the same room. I’ve been unable to get the vivid colours from some of these paintings out of my head, so I know I’ve absorbed something positive from it.
Delia Hiscock Walker
The Hockney visit gave me some powerful messages for the use of paint and the processes of painting. I loved the comment of one tutor who said, ‘ You have to be able to do the rules to break the rules’ For me the painting process must be exhilarating and though painful at times, meaning and context is paramount. I appreciated the structures of the work and the skills involved. I loved the colour and the scale of these paintings and the gargantuan effort to create them. The knowledge of the tutors really helped to see the processes behind the works and I for one will use some of these tips and insights. I shall spend more time with charcoal, pen and chalk to execute my drawings to a higher standard, having seen those of Hockney. in addition, the paintings will be a tantalising reference for me in the future as they stare back at me in reproduction.
My impressions of the exhibition were mixed. I loved the sheer size, vitality and use of colour in lots of his works however I do question whether Hockney sacrificed quality over size and quantity. Some of the paintings seemed to be quite rushed and almost careless – but in a way quantity itself has a visual impact – I’m thinking of the long wall where many i-pad prints were hung in meticulous rows – even though each print itself maybe wasn’t the best art – the overall effect was impressive. I loved the series of Woldgate Woods that were of light, space and dappled shade and reminded me of Monet – there is certainly something to be said for standing outside and just looking and absorbing and then selecting how to portray what you see.
I’m pleased to have gone to the exhibition before I start my outdoor section in Drawing 1 as I think this will help. For me, aside from all the colourful and massive works, I absolutely loved his delicate charcoal drawings of trees with a few lines placed so skilfully to depict fields and hills – and the page in his sketchbook of a simple line of trees drawn in ink, pencil and charcoal was stunning.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and am still thinking about everything we saw. The whole exhibition was most impressive and I liked some of the work more than others. One I really disliked – the large one of the hawthorne series next to the ‘tidy’ Hawthorne blossom nr Rudstone which I thought was creepy.
I enjoyed seeing the exhibition for a second viewing, and found myself ‘homing in’ on the sections that had communicated with me most on the first visit. It was particularly good to consider whether the apparent simplicity of the work was really so simple and to hear the opposing views of the two OCA tutors who accompanied us. I’m entranced by Hockney’s obvious love of and joy in the countryside he paints, and his ability to communicate the light and atmosphere of the passing seasons and weathers of our country. It was also good to share thought with other students, something that distance learning doesn’t often provide.
I was particularly interested in seeing and learning about the iPad drawings and was not disappointed. I was also impressed with Hockney’s mark making and use of colour in his oil paintings; together with his charcoal drawings. However, I think my lasting impression will be the contrast between his water colour paintings and his oil paintings of similar subjects and similar time period. Both types of paintings are wonderful in their own right, but the styles and colours are so different. This goes a long way to show Hockney’s versatility in his drawings and paintings and his potential inspiration to an extremely wide spectrum of students and artists alike. Tony Hogan told us that Hockney uses sable brushes size 35 and 50 for his watercolour paintings, but still manages to produce fine and intricate lines and marks on these relatively small paintings. What an amazing artist. I for one was definitely inspired and can’t wait to start experimenting!