David Hockney was in Glasgow last week to open the only European exhibition of his recent work. Caroline Ednie spoke to him about his ‘Very New Paintings’.
‘I don‘t mind boring others. but l‘m damned if I‘m going to bore myself.‘ David Hockney can afford to be a little ironic at this stage in his career. In fact. he can probably afford to be anything he wants, mainly because in the popular and well respected artist stakes he is, well, untouchable. He has achieved this enviable status, not by sticking to any winning formula. but by continuing to be one of the century‘s most progressive and proliﬁc artists. His ‘Very New Paintings’. now showing at the William Hardie Gallery are a further thankful reassurance that he hasn‘t managed to bore himself yet.
William Hardie has succeeded in pulling off an impressive coup for
Glasgow in managing to present Hockney‘s recently completed work. Not only is this the ﬁrst exhibition of the artist‘s work for some time in Britain, it is probably the only chance the public will get to see these new paintings in Europe, for this year at least.
This was all made possible through gallery director Hardie‘s friendship with John Cox, former director of the Scottish Opera now with the Royal Opera Covent Garden. who is a regular
‘O‘O ..9.. w‘
collaborator with Hockney. Over the years the artist has designed sets for Cox‘s productions of The Rake is Progress and The Magic Flute for the Glyndebourne Festival. it is their most recent collaboration. Strauss‘s Die Frau nlme Sc/iaaen, staged last year at Covent Garden which forms part of the inspiration behind Hockney‘s ‘Very New Paintings’.
The paintings, which the artist refers to as ‘internal landscapes‘. are wonderful. colourful abstractions. enigmatically identiﬁed only by number. Although somewhat different from his previous painted work. they do. nevertheless. form a natural point in the development of Hockney‘s oeuvre, which. of course. ranges from astonishing graphic ﬁgurative work (as a draughtsman Hockney is up there with the best ofthem). to ‘The Splash‘ which launched a thousand Athena posters. right through to more recent landscapes such as ‘Mulholland Drive‘
(l980), and ﬁnally to his photocollages and fax images.
‘The variety of work one does.‘ Hockney explains. ‘means nothing is a sideline for me. If. for example. i take on a piece oftheatre. it isn‘t a case of. “I‘m a painter and this is a sideline.‘ I treat it as a big piece. and l‘ve found l‘ve Ieamed from previous things. I‘ve learned a great deal from photography and it goes into everything else. i learned how to make the eye move around.‘
The eye is barely still when viewing the new paintings. and Hockney seems to achieve this by doing some very strange things with perspective. things which would almost make “Les Damoiselles d‘Avignon‘ blush. ‘I think Cubism has not been fully developed as a whole. wonderful range — it was an attempt. Also. perspective is itselfan abstraction and we‘ve forgotten that.‘
The formal and spatial games which he seems to be playing in his new
paintings are ampliﬁed by a luminosity in the colours which marks a glorious return to oil paint for Hockney. ‘You couldn‘t get colour like this with acrylic paint,‘ he admits. In fact, Hockney‘s painting has never looked so self-assured. ‘l‘m getting looser and more conﬁdent. even the way marks are made. they are a lot more conﬁdently done.‘
One suspects. however, despite the fact that Hockney‘s ‘Very New Paintings‘ are. well, very new. for an artist of his energy. his mind must already be on other things. So. what can possibly be next. apart that is from the second volume of the his autobiography Hiu'kney 0n Hockney. to be published in September, a series of prints based on the ‘Very New Paintings‘ to be published next January, the restaging of Turandm and Die Frau in San Francisco and Los Angeles respectively and the possibility of designing Wagner‘s Parsifal? Incredibly. Hockney does have other ideas.
‘Well. I get very interested in the TV picture because I know it‘s about to change. We‘ve played with Cubist ideas in the video which accompanies the exhibition and that‘s only the beginning. All my instincts have been to stay out ofthings like ﬁlm until you can have complete control, but that might be coming now because of the High Deﬁnition picture.‘
Whatever Hockney decides to do. let’s hope that we don‘t have to wait too long to see the results. Meanwhile. he concludes somewhat philosophically. ‘An artist‘s life is one of seeking and ﬁnding and an artist‘s life goes on until he falls over.‘ The exhibition of Very New Paintings provides one very good reason for hoping he remains standing for a good while yet.
'Simie Very New Paintings‘ by David Hockney. William Hardie Gallery. 28 Jun—27 Aug.
In search of colour
‘lt is terrible to be an artist and live in Edinburgh’ - so wrote S..l. Peploe in 1MB. The theme of holidays and foreign travel may have originated as a loose and seasonal excuse tor bringing a selection of the City Art Centre’s 20th century Scottish paintings out of the cupboard, but the fact that such a theme can prove so accommodating an umbrella is slgniilcant In itself. Of course, painters have always travelled, but it seems that, like the newly vigorous painters of the Glasgow School, Peplee and his fellow Colourists often felt as much constrained by the gloom of Scotland as they did by the traditions of high finish and imitative drawing which dominated academic practice at the turn of the century. The innovative use of bold, expressive brush strokes and a bright, lighter palette that many Scottish painters so admired was not only emanating from the artistic community in Paris, it was wired and nourished by the dazzling
light and vivid colours of the Mediterranean and llorth Africa.
Two of the earliest paintings in the current exhibition - Arthur Melville’s A Scene in Tunis, and Alexander Roche’s
In Eastern Territory by ilobert Macan
Prison Cate, Mogodar, Morrocco - exemplify lust that combination of luminosity and painterllness for which these members of the Glasgow School were renowned. The Colourlsts are
represented by Peploe’s more local A llocky Shore, Iona and several pictures by M). Fergusson, including a most attractive portrait, Margaret Morris seated in a Garden, Antibes. There are also rarely seen examples of work by Bellany, liedpath, Eardley and Blackadder.
Perhaps the most striking contributions to the exhibition, however, come from lesserknown contemporary painters. Andrew Williams’ Body Builders, Venice Beach is a boldly executed composition of three figures with suitably impressive dimensions - it measures seven and a half feet by six and a half. (in a smaller scale, but no less powerful is Wilhelmina Bams-Craham’s careful depiction of sculptural rock forms on the Scilly Isles. My personal favourite is llobert Maclaurln’s In Eastern Territory, painted in the late eighties as a result of a trip to Turkey. In it, the dramatic mountainous landscape, strong shadows, and vivid yellows and greens work perfectly with the artist’s pointillist-type technique of spongelng daubs of colour layer upon layer: it is an example of the way in which Scottish painters continue to use foreign inspiration to great effect. (Catherine Fellows)
Palnterbrush Holidays, City Art Centre, Market St, Edinburgh. 7-31 July.
52 The List 2—15 July 1993