On our recent visit to York, we took the time to check out the latest piece of work by David Hockney. It’s on tour at the moment (I think) after being unveiled at Tate Britain last year and is on show at York City Art Gallery.
We visited the gallery in sparklingly bright spring sunshine and seeking out this particular piece of art was top of our to do list. We weren’t disappointed either. The sheer scale of the work hits you as soon as you walk into the entire gallery that has been dedicated to it due to its size.
It’s essentially a play on one of Hockney’s ‘things’ – a larger painting made up of smaller paintings or images. He’s done plenty of this in the past and I feel pretty sure he was the first artist to do this kind of thing. He’s worked it pretty hard too using other media to explore this really quite commercial thought. The key difference here is scale with each component canvas being 918 x 1225mm in size and then 50 of these making an overall finished image size of 4.5 x 12m. That’s pretty big.
Technically, it’s a remarkable thing to pull off and that’s the first thing that hits you. There’s a lot of skill and technique involved in pulling this off and there are documentaries on screens showing how he painstakingly set about his task (in fact there was a documentary on TV last year which is also playing).
Once over the level of skill required, my mind then started to take in the work itself. Trees are amazing in all guises and apparently they are notoriously hard to portray in film and photography in terms of their scale. Hockney has almost created a life-size copse of East Yorkshire trees, so he’s pulled that off and there’s almost a sense the viewer is looking at a real scene due to the size of the artwork. The bleakness of the landscape is certainly far away from California swimming pools or vivid coloured images of late and there is a serene bleakness to it. The colours heighten the sense of realism too.
It’s brilliant to see yet again world-class art right on our doorstep in Yorkshire. It’s well worth a look if you’re in York (free too) and unlike the recent Plensa exhibition at YSP, don’t try to take any pictures or you’ll get accosted by the over zealous attendants.