If there’s one piece of advice I can give you about going to a David Hockney opening, especially one of this magnitude and public furore, it would be to get there as early as you can. That is assuming that you actually want to see the show and haven’t just turned up for the bottomless booze and the outstanding snack selection on offer at Tate Britain, for which you certainly couldn’t be blamed (those cheese twists were dangerously moreish). Fortunately, arriving embarrassingly early is a speciality of mine, and I won’t deny the smug pleasure I took in seeing the size of the queue as I left.
In the visual arts, Hockney is probably the closest we get to a living national treasure. The exhibition is a truly staggering reflection of his 60 year artistic voyage. In his earliest works, some made while still at the Royal College (1960-62), and all hung on soft pink walls, Hockney experiments with different styles and influences while exploring his own homosexuality in iconic works such as ‘We Two Boys Together Clinging’. Room 4 (out of a hefty 12) brings together his most celebrated ‘pool paintings’, displaying a level of dynamism that has become synonymous with his work in the 60’s. Inspired by his move to LA in 1964, these paintings hum with Californian light and are exquisitely balanced between figuration and the favoured abstraction of the time.
For an octogenarian Hockney is still, and has always been, happy to experiment and work with new technologies. Several rooms are devoted to his cubist-inspired polaroid collages, iPad drawings and multi-screen video works, while other rooms focus on his more recent large brightly coloured Hollywood landscapes, as well as the rather nostalgic ones of his Yorkshire home.
As excited as I was to stand in front of the big-hitters such as ‘A Bigger Splash‘ and ‘A Portrait of an Artist‘, it was his delicate line drawings from the late 60s and early 70s that left their biggest impression on me. With their unmistakable similarities to Matisse, and Warhol’s drawings a decade earlier, there was something about their assuredness and simplicity that has led me to spend the last few hours trawling through eBay to find a decent print.
Tate Britain 9 Feb – 29 May 2017