David Hockney’s latest retrospective Moving Focus opens at Kunstmuseum Luzern
David Hockney (*1937, UK) is one of the world’s most influential living artists. He rose to fame during the 1960s for his carefree images of Los Angeles and during the following decade for his life-size double portraits. As the first comprehensive exhibition of Hockney’s work in Switzerland, brings together more than 120 of the artist’s paintings, drawings, prints and digital works dating from 1954 to today. Charting his early days as a student in London to his latest iPad drawings, it reveals Hockney’s delight in artistic experimentation and lifelong obsession with perspective.
Comprised chiefly from Tate’s collection, also features a number of important loans from public and private collections in Europe and beyond. At the heart of the exhibition are two monumental landscape paintings. Bigger Trees Near Warter/Ou Peinture Sur Le Motif Pour Le Nouvel Age Post-Photografphique 2007, (collection Tate) is Hockney’s largest painting to date, measuring four and a half by twelve metres. Comprised of 50 individual canvases, it shows a view of the artist’s native Yorkshire shortly before the onset of spring.
For weeks, the artist travelled to and from this scene, working outside on six to ten canvases at a time and assembling them back in the studio with the aid of computer software to register the progress of the work. The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire, in 2011 (twenty eleven), (collection Centre Pompidou), is a multipart landscape of a magical forest that cordially welcomes viewers with colourful leaves and vines. This bold and cheerful depiction anticipates Hockney’s later iPad drawings that appear in the exhibition as a sequence of video animations.
Also on show are David Hockney’s iconic pool paintings, his painted and drawn portraits of friends and family including the celebrated My Parents and two important suites of early etchings: A Rake’s Progress inspired by William Hogarth and Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C.P. Cavafy whose release coincided with the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain.
As the exhibition reveals, Hockney’s focus is constantly moving as he repeatedly tries out new styles to challenge our visual habits. Taking up the mantle of Pablo Picasso and other cubist models of picture making, a body of Hockney’s work from the 1980s tackles the problem of how to depict our world of time, movement and space on a flat surface. Here, the pergola of a Mexican hotel in Hotel Acatlan: Two Weeks Later is transformed into a wild thicket where different vanishing points are aimed at simultaneously and there is no longer a fixed standpoint.
In The Perspective Lesson Hockney takes a stand against one-point perspective. He depicts a chair from the ‘wrong’ perspective, i.e., with the vanishing point in front of the object. Behind it, a chair depicted correctly from a central perspective is struck out by means of a bright red cross. A group of the artist’s most recent works, including In The Studio, December 2017, take the artist’s obsession with the multiple realities of three dimensional space to dizzying new heights.
Comprised of 3,000 digital images, this panorama of the artist standing among old and new paintings in his studio is not simply a photograph, but is, as Hockney describes, a “photographic drawing”. As he concludes: “Most people feel that the world looks like the photograph. I’ve always assumed that the photograph is nearly right.”
Curated by Fanni Fetzer and Helen Little