David Hockney is arguably the world’s greatest living artist. Now 78-years-old, he’s suffered a stroke, and is almost completely deaf. But he’s still working, still creating – and still wowing with a mercurial originality that is inspiring.
When many people think of Hockney and his art, they think of swimming pools, boys in showers, Los Angeles, Pop Art, and refreshingly vibrant landscapes. But the range of his work is incredible, and he is as much a theorist as he is an artist; he is as much a photographer, printmaker and drawer as he is a painter. And as a testament to his greatness, there is always at least one major exhibition of his being held somewhere in the world at any one time.
If you’re looking to find out more about the man behind the swimming pools, let’s take a look at 5 things you need to know about David Hockney.
Hockney Started Going Deaf In The 1980’s And Became A Better Artist For It
For many, going deaf is a troubling experience, and it could even be enough to create a breeding ground for depression.
Although going deaf would certainly have troubled Hockney, he used it to his advantage.
When his deafness got so bad, he started to use a hearing aid.
Losing and then regaining his sense of hearing gave him the chance to develop a better sense of space.
“It made me very much more aware of space, and my work is often about space,” he said.
“I feel I’m seeing space clearer. If you’re blind you use sounds to locate space, don’t you? And I’m using it the other way now.”
Hockney Is Probably The World’s Most Prolific Living Artist
Okay, it’s very hard to actually quantify that statement.
But there is little doubt that Hockney’s titanic output can easily rival that of some his workaholic predecessors, including the Swiss expressionist artist Paul Klee, who once produced more than 500 paintings in a single year.
Hockney lives, breathes and talks art, and has worked on photographs, drawings, paintings, prints, stage-sets, collages, magazines and books throughout his career.
He has even produced art for the British Telecom telephone director for Bradford.
And at the grand age of 78, he is showing no signs of slowing down. Always willing to embrace new technology, Hockney paints hundreds of portraits and landscapes using the Brushes iPad application, which he sends to his friends.
Hockney Is As Forward-Thinking As They Come
Anti-drinking but pro-smoking, Hockney has always been open to new ideas.
When people told him that photography couldn’t evolve any further, he told them they were wrong, before embarking on a series of photographic collages that he termed “joiners”.
These collages were often comprised of numerous 35mm Polaroid shots of the same event, which Hockney then stitched together to give the impression of a Cubist painting.
The results were huge photographic collages that suggested more movement and a sense of viewer-involvement than a single photograph ever could.
He referred to these collages less as photographs and more as drawings.
He was vindicated in saying that he had evolved photography by abandoning one-point perspective, and showing us that there is more to photography than a single picture that shows just one point of view.
“(Previous) Photography has failed,” he observed.
And when people told him that naturalist landscape was redundant, he told them it wasn’t – and showed them why.
“When people say things like that, I’m always perverse enough to think ‘Oh, I’m sure it is.’ I thought about it, then I decided that it couldn’t be true because every generation looks differently. Of course you can still paint landscape – it’s not been worn out.”
Hockney Probably Preferred Chinese Art To Renaissance Art
Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Caravaggio; they weren’t bad, were they?
Hockney might have admired their paintings and their use of the camera obscura, but he was much more enamoured with 13th century Chinese art.
Why? Because he said that it was more realistic.
After all, we don’t “see” the world according to a Renaissance painting, which relies on one-point perspective and a fixed viewpoint. Instead, our viewpoint is constantly shifting. Our eyes – and we – move around and see the world via a series of shifting perspectives.
This sense of moving around the world is something the Chinese achieved with their paintings, inviting the viewer to take a walk around their space. No false one-point perspective for these guys. Or for Hockney, who copied their methods for some of his own paintings.
Hockney Was One Of The Founders Of Pop Art
It can be easy to assume that Pop Art started in sunny, fashionable America. After all, we associate Pop Art with chic Warhol and Liechtenstein, and their cynical but colourful images of American consumerism.
But the movement actually began on the dreary, rain-sodden streets of Britain.
One of the founding fathers was David Hockney, who grow up in the industrial northern city of Bradford.
Along with his close artist pals at the start of the swinging sixties, Hockney exhibited at the Young Contemporaries Exhibition, which showcased for the first time British Pop Art.
He then visited America in 1963, where he helped to spread awareness of the new style of art.