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David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition

Richard Beefield et al

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Hockney came away from a Picasso exhibition convinced that his absolute mastery of drawing meant that he must have been tone deaf, on the basis that increased capacity in one of the senses meant diminished ability in the others.

Hockney's Great Wall - (his studio in the Hollywood Hills was built on a former indoor tennis court, so it was that long, and 2 stories high) - assembled high quality photocopies of hundreds of portraits, arranging them chronologically along the walls, and geographically (N or S Europe up and down). With that assemblage he was able to pinpoint the time, about 1430, when artists began to use optical devices.

Traditional art historians got particularly upset, bc they felt that in some way Hockney was implying that the old masters had cheated.

But there a number of giveaways. First there was a dramatic and sudden improvement in the accuracy and detail of paintings. Second, if you look closely at fabric patterns, for example, you can see where image has gone in and out of focus (the lenses were quite small, and reflected a small image). And third was the sudden appearance of shadows in the new paintings. The camera obscura and lenses needed bright light, and of course, if if you have bright light you automatically get lots of shadowed areas.

Observation that Hockney has turned a small corner of East Yorkshire into a virtual national park, with thousands of people becoming familiar with the landscape from his paintings, and making 'pilgrimages' to see the actual locations.

An iPad image he made with a rough sketch of a stone plinth inscribed with Carl Sagan quote "In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."

Most people don't really look at the world. They look enough to avoid bumping into things, and that's all. Photography and film-making have a related problem - the single POV. They force you to look where the director wants you to. Hockney's alternative is the multiple POV photo collages like the famous Pearblossom Highway or thefilms he shot with multiple cameras fitted to a car, and then screened on banks of TVs.

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