Thursday, 29 March 2012
Red and orange and green and blue
As I was at the Royal Academy delivering my paintings I thought I may as well pop in on the Hockney exhibition.
I am a Friend of the Royal Academy and therefore joined a very small queue, rather than the enormous one next to it. Hockney seems to have - despite (or who knows, maybe because of) his belligerent pro-smoking rants - become something of a national treasure.
Hockney's stance on smoking is controversial, but his work isn't. He isn't scary in the way Hirst or Emin is. He isn't as wacky as Grayson Perry or Gilbert and George. He has become a painter of the English landscape. What could be more traditional than that?
Except that Hockney's landscapes are strange things. They are very colourful for one thing: kaleidoscopically colourful. And many of them are huge, made up of a patchwork of canvases painted on the spot. Some are very oddly stylised, though the bulk of them are, just as oddly, very conservative. I kept being reminded of someone else's work and realised after a while that it was David Gentleman of all people. But in a world of very arch, tongue-in-cheek art, it is refreshing to see someone just pursue their enthusiasms in paint. And you can hardly fault Hockney's work rate.
The show features some very early work - two paintings from 1956. They are very much of their time, but I liked them. You would be doing very well to recognise them as Hockney's though. They were very sombre, limited in colour and heavy with painted texture. Both features telegraph poles - an element that is oddly absent from Hockney's present day landscapes.
The things I liked most were the charcoal drawings, which is ironic in a show so full of colour. They didn't seem quite so eager to please. I had had enough of orange and pink by the time I left, but those charcoal drawings will stay with me I think.