David Hockney’s big picture is a joy to behold

EDITORIAL USE ONLY.'Artist David Hockney RA with his painting 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-eleven), during a photocall to launch the opening of his major exhibition David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture (which runs from January 21 to April 9 2012), at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 16, 2012. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
EDITORIAL USE ONLY.'Artist David Hockney RA with his painting 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-eleven), during a photocall to launch the opening of his major exhibition David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture (which runs from January 21 to April 9 2012), at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 16, 2012. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
0
Have your say

IT’S definitely not grim up north.

Not if you’re looking through David Hockney’s eyes that is.

Earlier this month the Bradford-born artist opened his one-man show at the Royal Academy of Arts, a walk away from Piccadilly Circus.

And when I say one-man, I don’t mean an intimate collection of a few treasured works.

This is an art show on a huge scale, filling 13 rooms.

A Bigger Picture is Hockney’s homage to the British landscape and mostly that found in the Yorkshire Wolds near Bridlington where he now lives.

The show consists of oil paintings, charcoal and iPad drawings, sketches and even films all made between 2004 and 2011 by arguably the country’s greatest living artist working at the height of his powers.

And it’s just magnificent.

Once you’ve battled through the trophy hunters swarming around the gift shop and into Gallery 1 you’re transported back to east Yorkshire.

The hexagonal room has a quartet of huge canvases depicting three trees as they are transformed by the seasons. Up close, you can see what appear to be quite obvious brush strokes, with no fine blending or microscopic detailing.

But as you draw backwards the sum of the parts merge to make a much greater impression.

Trees, whether in summer’s full leaf or stripped bare by winter, are also a central theme running through the show.

And the paintings’ sheer brightness - think of a television with its colour setting up too high - touches you to the point of improving your mood, they’re so jolly.

Gallery 2 offers a clue as to how a lad from the monochromed industrial north found his technicolour vision.

Two paintings - Fields, Eccleshill 1956 and Bolton Junction, Eccleshill, 1956 - made when Hockney was a teenager studying at the Bradford School of Art are swathed in a dour light.

Fast-forward past his graduation from London’s Royal College of Art (he studied there from 1959 to 1962) and a trip to Italy and both his horizons and his palette have begun to widen.

He set up base in Los Angeles in 1964.

There he had his first taste of fame as a young artist with his bright, simplified versions of Hollywood life including his iconic A Bigger Splash painting of 1967.

As A Closer Grand Canyon from 1998 later illustrates, the Californian experience may also have injected fluorescent colours into Hockney’s imagination.

This optimism is at its most acute in the next series of works the now 74-year-old created depicting his first Yorkshire landscapes.

The six works were all painted from memory in 1997/98.

Among them are his famous image of a golden Salts Mill complete with shiny brown terraced houses and an equally luscious Garrowby Hill complete with luminous green and yellow fields bordered by purple hedgerows.

What is more startling is that they were inspired as a result of daily drives to and from his friend Jonathan Silver’s deathbed in Wetherby.

This was the same Jonathan Silver who converted the crumbling Salts Mill into a gallery space which today showcases many of the artist’s works.

The paintings exude an optimism and joy made at what must have been a very trying time for Hockney as his close friend succumbed to cancer.

It’s this underlying sense of joy with the world which runs like a rich seam throughout the show.

These are paintings created by a man who loves life, is not thwarted by cynicism and instead absorbs and then translates this joy through his visions of the simple pleasures of nature.

But Hockney does not skirt the issue of death.

Through the study of a group of paintings called Totems and Trees he examines the final cycle of nature which ends in death and decay.

In Gallery 8 the room is dominated by a psychedelic canvas of cut yellow logs laying on purple soil by a pink/brown roadside.

His creative tendencies and embracing of new technology get a full airing in the huge Gallery 9 with The Arrival of spring 2011.

It records the transition from winter through to late Spring on one small road in 51 prints and one giant painting.

The prints were all created using an iPad, and have a hazy quality.

But it is his 32-canvas painting, which covers an entire wall, which steals the attention with the sharpness of its oil paints.

One gallery room towards the end of the show is devoted to showing Hockney’s note books, sketches and iPad images.

This sneak peek into his creative process only makes what you witness in these galleries even more remarkable.

On the train back, and this exhibition is definitely worth a day trip on East Coast’s Leeds to London service, I was left reflecting on a show which left me with a sense of hope.

And that even in your winter years your best work may be yet to come.

The show runs until April 9.

For details go to www.royalacademy.org.uk