11 June 2015

David Hockney Painting and Photography

David Hockney has been fascinated for a long time by the relationship between painting and optical and photographic technologies. In the 1980s he made collages of multiple Polaroid images (“joiners”) for portraits and landscapes. In 2001 the first edition of his Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters was published. The second edition, following in 2006, developed further his conjectures about the way Renaissance artists may have used mirrors and lenses to generate two-dimensional images. The exhibition A Bigger Picture (at the Royal Academy and elsewhere in 2012) included enlarged prints of his iPad drawings made with the Brushes app. Now some of his latest ideas can be seen at Annely Juda Fine Art in London in David Hockney Painting and Photography:
The show is an exploration of David Hockney’s interest in perspective and features a series of group portraits, including those of card players, and other portraits and scenes painted in his Los Angeles studio in 2014 and 2015. 
David Hockney’s comment on the paintings and photographs said: 
“Painters have always known there is something wrong with perspective. 
The problem is the foreground and the vanishing point. The reason we have perspective with a vanishing point, is that it came from optics. I am sure that that’s what Brunelleschi did. He used a five inch diameter concave mirror to project the Baptistry onto his panel. This gives automatically a perspective picture, just like a camera would. This is why there is always a void between you and the photograph. I am taking this void away, to put you in the picture. 
I made the paintings of the card players first. That helped me work out how to photograph them. Everything in the photographs is taken very close. The heads the jackets and shirt and shoes are all photographed up close. Each photograph has a vanishing point, so instead of just one I get many vanishing points. It is this that I think gives them an almost 3D effect without the glasses. I think this opens up photography into something new. 
If you really think about it, I know the single photograph cannot be seen as the ultimate realist picture. Well not now. Digital photography can free us from a chemically imposed perspective that has lasted for 180 years.”
One of the first pictures in this exhibition is The Chair (2015, below top). It seemed to me that one way of explaining Hockney’s point about perspective is to consider the left and right parts of this picture separately (below lower):

On a different scale, Card Players #3 (2014, Acrylic on canvas, below):

evolves into The Card Players (2015, Photographic drawing printed on paper, below):

though examining the photographic drawing close up reveals joints. Another photographic drawing, Perspective Should Be Reversed (2014, below) spells it out:

In the background to this drawing and another, Two Chairs with People (2014, below):

were some paintings of dancers (detail, below):

which apparently were on show at PACE Gallery’s David Hockney Some New Painting (and Photography), in New York earlier this year, together with some of the work at Annely Juda, but these paintings didn’t make it to London. The image above lower left looks to be The Dancers IV, 14 August – 15 September (2014, below), stalwart next to Matisse’s last month:

The London show seems to offer more portraits than the one in New York, noteworthy I thought were Jonathan Mills, 30-31 July (2014, below top), ubiquitous in the exhibition pictures, Bing McGilvray, 20-21 December (2014, below lower left), and Benedikt Taschen, 9-11 December (2013, below lower right) – to whom we should all be grateful for making art books affordable. On which note it is perhaps appropriate that these portraits seem more attractive in reproduction than in full size reality.

David Hockney Painting and Photography continues in London until 27 June and will be at L.A. Louver, Venice, California from 15 July to 19 September.

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