Hockney On Art: Conversations with Paul Joyce Hardcover – 3 Dec 1999
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For the last 30 years David Hockney has been the foremost exponent of British art and "one of a tiny group of people who define their generation". In his conversations with filmmaker Paul Joyce, now collected together in Hockney on Art, he lays bare the thought processes of the artist at work. Hockney's musings and insights are skilfully interspersed with works by the artists who have inspired him--Rembrandt and Picasso are particular favourites--and with examples of his own methodical preparations for portrait-painting, in particular his habit of taking photographs of his subjects and reinventing them through the medium of paint. His black-and-white image of fashionable 1960s dress designer Ossie Clark and his wife and cat, marooned in the white fur carpet of their minimalist house, becomes a brilliant rendering of body language, light and colour in the finished work Mr and Mrs. Clark and Percy, reproduced on the facing page. Just to flick through this book is to be reminded of the prolific nature of Hockney's art and his uncompromising use of colour. "We are forced to make depictions. We have made them for 10,000 years now and we are certainly not going to stop. There's a deep desire within us that makes us want to do it. Every depiction was made by means of painting and drawing until the middle of the 19th century. The hand made them all until it looked as if the hand was stopping and then they were made by machinery. Now we're getting to the core. It looked as if the hand was a disappearing but, of course, it can't disappear, even from making the depiction." Hockney's words are frank, considered, highly original--not simply an embellishment of his paintings but a perfect counterpoint to them. Taking place from 1982-1999, in a variety of locations from London to Los Angeles, the end result of Hockney on Art is a fascinating glimpse of one of the most idiosyncratic and influential figures of the 20th century. --Catherine Taylor
David Hockney is one of the most intelligent artists alive. He is one of a tiny group of people who define their generation. We all have a stake in his success. (Grey Gowrie, SPECTATOR)
For the last 30 years David Hockney has been the foremost exponent of British art and "one of a tiny group of people who define their generation". In his conversations with filmmaker Paul Joyce, now collected together in Hockney on Art, he lays bare the (Catherine Gowrie, SPECTATOR)
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Hockney picks apart the way Western art, by espousing visual "realism", has lost the ability to convey time, or space except in the most unimaginative way. He looks at non-Western art from a unique viewpoint, and describes his attempts to communicate a "journey" rather than a snapshot view.
Using the camera in a way no photographer ever would, he explores perspective and the constraints it puts on our ways of seeing space. His thoughts illuminate Cubism as no-one else ever has and make us look at pre-Renaissance art with new eyes.
This is a subtle, complex book that repays re-reading. It is quite clear from this that, whatever you may think of his paintings, Hockney is a phenomenal intellect and probably the foremost thinker on art who is writing today. It is only because he doesn't follow the classic academic route that anyone has been able to ignore him.
From his excursions into the media, it is clear that Hockney is not a retiring soul indeed, he probably has an opinion on every issue under the sun. A great deal of editing and structuring must have been undertaken to give this book the successful shape that it has. The publishers have produced a book that, in its presentation and layout, is much more than a series of musings. The text, photographs and illustrations of both the artist's own work and that of earlier artists, are very well integrated. Particular mention must be paid to the quality of the colour reproductions - an essential requirement for presenting Hockney's work.
One of the unexpected pleasures of the book is the way that the locations for the interviews, in cities as London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Cologne and Paris, subtly alter the perspective of the discussions. It is a pity that the fare for a trip to Bradford could not be found but there is a limit to everything. Hockney has always been concerned to inform his art through the application of new technologies, and so discussion of, in no particular order, Polaroid photography, hi-8 video recording, photocopying, faxing, laser printing and computers, is a very significant part of these pages. The artist's enthusiasm for technology is infectious, reminding one of boys of a similar generation and their Meccanos or train sets. Since 1999, of course, his interests have continued, indeed expanded. One can certainly understand Joyce's comment that ""We stopped talking only when David was working or sleeping... he would move from topic to topic with great speed." However, Hockney's comments are is from hectoring and come across as the product of extensive reading and thinking.
Each chapter is introduced by a short text explaining the context of the interview - some of which were quite searing, for example his deafness (1985). However, even here the artist's attitude came across as positive and self-deprecating - his incurable deafness is "alleviated by increasingly sophisticate micro-chip hearing aids, versions of which he paints in different colours. Thus a red sock on one foot and a blue on the other might be matched colour for colour with his two hearing aids". There are also the deaths of many of his friends from his personal and professional lives. More so that in interviews and self-made programmes on television, this book presented a rounded portrait of the artist - perhaps because of the time and, in particular, the passage of time that was made available.
With some exceptions, but surprisingly few, both the questions and the answers are free of the convoluted babble of many critics and commentaries on art. In fact, on almost every page, the artist makes a statement which made me stop and think - eventually so many were piling up that I had to write them down since I was losing track of the development of the narrative arc of arguments and opinions presented in the book.
I did miss a consideration of where Hockney's art was going, which might have provided an opportunity to compare reality and expectation.
There is a bias towards photography which is to be expected given Hockney's/Joyce's common interests, but from the artist's joiners, the narrative takes in Cubism, Renaissance perspective, Vermeer, Diego Rivera, Polaroid collages, the Eastern art aesthetic, Rembrandt, Cezanne's apples, Laurel and Hardy, Holbein's Ambassadors, August Sander, Caravaggio, Cartier-Bresson and Vietnam, to mention just a few. Hockney is not only widely read but has thought seriously about what he has read and applied his thinking to the world and to his art. The book is a celebration of Hockney but also owes much to Joyce's perceptive questions, a million miles from, for example, the convoluted ramblings of art critics and presenters whose main concern is to demonstrate their knowledge.
Is it the artist's Northern origins, his sexuality or his lack of interest in the London-centred art establishment (or, indeed, his smoking) that has led to this intellect and thinking not being exploited nationally? Could this have happened in Germany, for example? As ever, our loss is the world's gain.
There are also many thoughtfully chosen and beautifully reproduced illustrations of Hockney's art across diverse media, as exemplified by "Snails Space with Vari-lites `Painting as performance'", 1995-96, shown on the cover. A magnificent book on all levels.
It spans 2 deacdes the 80's and 90's.
It features very heavily David Hockneys' use and strong opinions on photography. Without doubt there is some real breakthrough thinking described in this book.
A compelling read that is splattered with gems and insights about someone Andrew Marr (at 2010 Hay Festival) described as one of the most impressive people he had ever met. After reading this I tend to agree.
A wonderful book.
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