British painter David Hockney began his extraordinary career as pop artist in the 1960s, but the prolific 78-year-old has always kept up with the times, which is why his upcoming show at the National Gallery of Victoria is so special. Madde up of works from the past decade of Hockney’s career, David Hockney: Current is exactly that: an in-depth look at the artist’s recent practice. It will present Australians with a rare opportunity to see some of the world's foremost contemporary paintings up close. The NGV's Simon Maidment has worked closely with the British painter to curate the show, which he tells The Creators Project will be “a bit of a surprise.” He selected an enormous array of portrait and landscape works that showcase Hockney’s versatility and eagerness to embrace digital technology—including, most prominently, the touch screen. “Why this is such an interesting show,” Maidment explains, “is that it’s not just painting. It encompasses work from the last ten years where Hockney has pushed into new territories, or is using new techniques, or is undertaking things in ambitious new ways.”
"Untitled iPad drawing" (22 January 2011) Much of the exhibition is made up of digital drawings and videos created on the iPad or iPhone, mounted as prints and on screens. Some screens will show, through animation, the process of mark making that Hockney has used to create them. There will also be two multi-perspective video works, The Jugglers and Seven Yorkshire Landscapes, displayed on 18 tiled screens each. “He’s really pushing the display possibilities as well as the creation possibilities with a lot of these works,” Maidment says.
Hockney might be keeping things contemporary, but that doesn’t indicate a total unwillingness to stray from painting tradition. A highlight of the exhibition will be Bigger Trees Near Warter, his ambitious en plein air painting of a Yorkshire landscape. Heading outdoors to paint the English countryside might not seem particularly revolutionary—until you see the work in person. The largest en plein air painting ever produced, it comprises 50 canvases tiled together.
"Bigger trees near Warter or ou Peinture sur lemotif pour le Nouvel Age Post-Photographique" (2012) “It required quite a lot of digital intervention, photographing each of the canvasses as they were made each day and then compositing that photo into a larger image,” says Maidment. The show will also include a massive portrait project undertaken by Hockney in 2013. The 82 acrylic portraits of friends, family members and celebrities—including the likes of John Baldessari and Barry Humphries—were painted from life, with the artist inviting subjects to sit for him in his studio, all in the same position. “By keeping the same way of sitting and the same chair and background, he creates this sort of meditation on the different ways in which people look, the permutations in people’s faces and expressions and gestures,” Maidment says.
"Barry Humphries" (26th, 27th, 28th March 2015) “In fact, almost every work in the show is made in direct proximity to the subject—as opposed to a lot of painting throughout the latter half of this last century, where someone would take a photograph of a scene then work from that photograph in their studio.” Although it’s a massive show, Current aims to be immersive and intimate in this same way. The relationship between painter, subject, and viewer is inextricable. “It’s one of those shows where you can see the reproductions of work either on a computer or in a catalogue, and you feel like you have a sense of it,” says Maidment. “But when you actually see the works in the flesh, they’re quite transformative and it’s quite astonishing. The video works, the large scale iPad drawings printed out—there’s nothing quite like seeing these in the flesh, and when you do they’re even more surprising.”
Hockney is a risk-taker. Having enjoyed such a long and lauded career, there is no real need for the artist to continue to try and push the boundaries of his own practice. Yet, as Maidment points out, that’s exactly what he keeps doing. “Together, all these bodies of work combine to form a portrait of an artist who is working in experimental ways and producing huge amounts of work even though they have been a significant and famous artist for a very long time now,” he says. “A lot of artists in that situation don’t feel the need to continue to work at such great pace... It’s going to be very interesting for people, particularly artists working at the moment, to see somebody that they’ve grown up with and somebody whose work they’ve seen in a historical context who is still making work very publicly in ways that could be fatal.” Don’t miss out on seeing David Hockney’s works in person, in Melbourne from November 11 2016 until March 13 2017. You can find out more info here. Check out qantas.com for the latest flight deals to Melbourne available now. Related: