Happenings: David Hockney at Tate Britain

Rainy March days call for long afternoons spent peering at paintings - fact. And we can’t think of a better artist to cheer us up with colour and vibrancy than David Hockney. His current retrospect at Tate Britain (his biggest yet) is quite the hot ticket in town - it’s a celebration of his life in art that also coincides with the painter’s 80th birthday.

When we think of Hockney, the picture that usually appears is that of cool aqua pools, green and purple woodlands and stretching deserts. The man himself is notoriously outspoken, cheeky and full of Northern charm. He now splits his time between his Kensington home and LA, the latter being a location that has influenced his paintings for decades. Much of Hockney’s work embodies sunny, bohemian, Californian - a far cry from his gritty Bradford roots.

A Bigger Splash - David Hockney
A Bigger Splash - David Hockney

The Tate have managed to squeeze in six decades of Hockney’s career into an exhibition that has become the fastest-selling in Tate’s history. Impressive. But what’s the enduring appeal of Hockney’s bold brushstrokes?

Well, the artist reportedly still continues to paint everyday and has always used his works in a documentary style fashion, illustrating the different periods of his life. The retrospective takes us through these eras - from his time spent in America in the 60’s and 70’s to the various lovers who appear again and again on canvas. It’s this diary-like style that lets us follow Hockney’s life through its varying stages.

We also can’t think of another artist who’s use of colour is quite so magnificent. From magentas to maroons and every shade in between, Hockney’s way with colour animates his paintings beyond belief. A forest becomes a psychedelic wonderland; a field is veering on fluorescent. So when the weather is looking far from vibrant, we’re even more inclined to get lost in Hockney’s multicoloured mind.

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy - David Hockney
Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy - David Hockney

The exhibition contains a unique section dedicated to the painter’s foray into multimedia. Previously critical of technology, Hockney has experimented with painting using video, as well is his iPhone and iPad - all of which are displayed at the Tate.

Speaking on the subject, Hockney has claimed that technology is “Isolating” and “Good for pornography, but not much else, because with pornography you’re alone. But where is the shared experience going to come from?”

When an individual has mastered their profession simply with paint and paper (avoiding technology altogether) it’s difficult to criticise their opinion on the subject. Actually, we can’t help but think it would be wise to take a leaf out of Hockney’s view about the isolating nature of technology. Once again, he continues to be progressive and divisive.

Peter Getting out of Nick's Pool - David Hockney
Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool - David Hockney

What we like best about this exhibition and Hockney’s work in general, is the humour of it. Never too serious, but never overtly jokey, there’s usually a subtle, cheeky nod in most of his pieces. Take ‘Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool’ from 1966, where the main focus of the painting is a man’s bare bottom poking out of a swimming pool.

The exhibition runs until 29th May and we suggest you get your skates on as tickets are in high demand. So if you’re planning a visual and mental escape from the end of winter’s glumness, it seems Hockney (and the Tate) have got you more than covered.

Words: Lucy Vincent

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