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Conversations With David Hockney

Martin Gayford

When you are here (in Bridlington England) you can see how it varies continuously. The light will be different, the ground changes colour. In Southern California if you went out to paint the only thing that changed would be the shadows as they moved.

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Francis Bacon dismissed most abstract art, which he called 'the art of the handkerchief' - all covered in stains and dribbles.

We think that the photograph is the ultimate reality, but it isn't because the camera sees geometrically. We don't. We see partly geometrically and partly psychologically. We concentrate on parts of a picture - when we meet someone we concentrate on the face, and all else is smaller and blurred. Or if watching dancers, we often concentrate on the hands, because that is what is moving.

His big paintings. "You stand before them, and your mind is already in them, whereas with a normal sized painting you look into it.

Chinese saying that painting is an old man's art, meaning that the experience of life and looking at the world accumulates as you get older.

Painters like Monet and Van Gogh make you look more closely at the landscape around you, because they looked, and painted, with such attention. Looking is a very positive act. You have to do it deliberately, just like careful listening. And when it's challenging, it rewards that attention.

Talking about the camera obscura in Secret Knowledge. Projection simplifies painting. We rented some shiny armour. When you see that armour in projection, you see that it is really just three greys ... but if you look at real thing, it's much harder to see where the shines are.

Scholars resist idea of their favourite artists using lens and projections because seen as 'cheating'. But Hockney says optical devices are just tools - they don't make the painting.

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