Press Release and Exhibition Checklist
Gray is pleased to present Hockney in Normandy, an exhibition of new prints by David Hockney created at his studio in Normandy, France. The presentation features recent iPad paintings and a suite of landscape prints made from original ink on paper drawings. This new body of work highlights Hockney’s singular sense of line and form and his longstanding commitment to exploring perspective as mediated by technology.
Hockney in Normandy will be on view at Gray New York from February 22 through March 19, 2021. To schedule an in-person or virtual viewing, click here.
Hockney’s intuitive ability to translate his observations into vivid marks permeates his work in all mediums. At the heart of his practice lies a devotion to drawing that vividly records the people and places in his life. At the age of 83, Hockney remains steadfast in finding time daily to draw and paint, finding it as essential and as instinctual as his sense of sight.
As the artist comments, “The teaching of drawing is the teaching of looking. People can be taught to observe more. It’s possible to teach people to look, really look. Most people don’t really look, they scan the ground in front of them, so they can see to walk, but do they really look?” [i]
In her New York Times review of David Hockney: Drawing from Life—currently on view at the Morgan Library and Museum after its first presentation at the National Gallery, London—acclaimed critic Roberta Smith notes the artist’s “towering drawing gifts, openness to new technologies and his incessant work ethic.” [ii] In recent years, it is with this trifecta of tools that Hockney has broken new ground with his iPad paintings.
Hockney’s exploration of technology dates back to the 1980s, when he created a groundbreaking body of shifting Polaroid photocollages, a series of which were exhibited at Richard Gray Gallery in 1983. His interest in technology only accelerated as he experimented with other mass-use equipment, including Xeroxes, the fax machine, Macintosh computers, and Photoshop.
This early digital fluency led him to embrace the possibilities of working on the iPhone and iPad upon their release in the late 2000s. Working with Brushes and other applications developed for drawing on touchscreens, Hockney began to draw hundreds of images on his iPhone in 2009 and then in 2010 on the iPad, which allowed him to work at a larger scale and with more detail.
Keeping a tablet on his bedside, he developed a ritual-like habit of making numerous digital paintings, often intimate in focus and impromptu in feel, of everyday life.
Throughout 2019 and the quarantine days of 2020, Hockney has endeavored to remain as positive and productive as ever with this daily sketching, depicting the quotidian items around his studio and fresh flowers with deft finger strokes on the iPad, and then emailing the images out to friends and family.
As Gray Principal Valerie Carberry noted in a recent Art Basel interview, Hockney’s drawing on the iPad aren’t merely using the technology but in fact evocative of the digital substrate itself, translating “the electricity of looking at a screen, the brightness and intensity of all the color.” [iii]
In a time dominated by the digital, Hockney continues to find methods of drawing out moments of observational clarity and levity, even in the dimmest of days.
"On an iPad you can draw for ever and you can’t on a sheet of paper. And on an iPad you draw a bit differently, but that’s all you do. Drawing is 50,000 years old, isn’t it? I think it comes from very deep within us actually."
-David Hockney [iv]
Born in Yorkshire, England and with his formative years in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s, Hockney has, for the last two years, found himself living and working in Normandy.
While visiting the northern French region a couple of years ago, the artist became enthralled with the landscape and medieval look of the town, leading to his purchase of a seventeenth-century house to serve as his latest studio. From his new lodgings in Normandy, Hockney got to work pursuing one of his most enduring subjects—the arrival of spring.
In recording his first springtime in Normandy, Hockney set out with ink and concertina sketchbooks, which unfolded with each sketch like a map of his new painterly habitat. He created paintings on paper of the trees lining the entrance of the property… studying patterns of line and weight in the cobbles of the path and stretches of grass. Not unlike Van Gogh familiarizing himself with the fields of Arles through his expressive strokes, Hockney observed the blooming brush and reflecting pond abutting the timber and red shingles of his Norman home.
Yet Hockney’s landscapes are not so simply about space itself as they are about how he moves, meditatively, observantly, through it. In Yorkshire in 2010, Hockney saw his childhood environment anew through creating his Four Seasons videos, a nine-channel film tracking slowly through the Woldgate Woods, which featured in Hockney’s 2018 exhibition at Gray Warehouse. Writing in Tate’s David Hockney catalogue, Meredith A. Brown notes the piece as “a complex vision of the English countryside as a landscape experienced, not simply seen.”[vi]
Now in Normandy and back to paint and paper, Hockney nevertheless insists on creating the character of place and the illusion of movement through multiple views that guide the viewer through views from each cardinal direction.
"We do not look at the world from a distance; we are in it, and that’s how we feel. Some people may not like it, other people do. I tend to like the thought that I’m in the world. I don’t want just to look through keyholes."
-David Hockney [vii]
Hockney’s shifting perspective is further developed in Beuvron-en-Auge Panorama, 2019, a sloping, almost topographical view of the nearby, two-hundred person village of Beuvron-en-Auge.
For critic Jackie Wullschläger, “His stage sets come to mind in the eight-foot painting Beuvron-en-Auge, Panorama, depicting his nearest village, houses around a market square tilted as a sort of oval cut-out.” [viii]
Though years have passed since he produced backgrounds and sets operas, the theatricality and fantasy of Hockney’s landscapes remain unabashed.
“Stand in the landscape you love, try and depict your feelings of space, and forget photographic vision, which is distancing us too much from the physical world.”
- David Hockney [ix]
Hockney finds the internal terrain of his studio ripe itself as a stage for dramatic visual interplay. Throughout his career, the inanimate materials of his working spaces have served often as characters on their own, repeated objects such as chairs, tables, easels, that even without a face convey his setting, his life spent in the studio.
These interior views also offer a through line between Yorkshire, Los Angeles, and Normandy, all of which the artist has made home. In his painting Hollywood Hills House, 1981-82, for example, Hockney defines his home as a colorful, gesturally-rendered space for creating and contemplating paintings.
Forty years on, Hockney still finds visual potential and impact in the surfaces of his studio, including the canvases of his complete and in-process paintings, one of which sits upon an easel in In the Studio, 2019. In this composition, the artist finds just as much intrigue in the grain of the timber beams of his home and in the arrangement of paints and brushes on cerulean carts, as he does in his outdoor landscapes.
In a review of Hockney’s latest works, critic Jackie Wullschläger finds the artist in conversation with his canonical predecessors. In considering the British artist’s self-reflective paintings of his studio, she writes, “Hockney more than any other postwar painter takes off from Parisian modernism. Picasso’s graphic linearity, Matisse’s audacious flattened colour, underlie Hockney’s lucid dramas of pictorial space that lead the eye into a world recognisable yet intensified, enhanced, made rhythmic, limpid, cool.”[x]
In Spilt Ink and Ruby Dreaming, Hockney turns further inward, meditating on his practice through the years, on the medium of painting itself, and on the surface of his work as the set of a dynamic stage.
As Tate curator Andrew Wilson writes, in Hockney’s works for opera sets, the artist “believed that he was starting to find a way to represent three and four dimensions, space and movement—as well as emotion—on the flat surface of two dimensions, which itself can only be an idea that encompasses representation and abstraction as one.”[xi]
The development of this dramatic sense of space finds its way to the forefront of Hockney’s ink drawings, with even the curtains delineating the stage on which the white and brown-spotted Ruby prances. In effect, each composition draws together many of Hockney’s subjects and styles developed throughout his long career: the multiple planes of view dating back to his 1960s works; the high drama of his designs for stage and opera sets in the 1970s and 80s; the colorful gridded layers and abstract forms of his 1990s; and the focus on the natural of so many of his works in the last two decades.
Even today with only his dog and his closest circle of assistants in the audience, Hockney remains ever enthralled by the artist’s simple joy of wrestling with vision.
ABOUT DAVID HOCKNEY
David Hockney (British, b. 1937) has produced some of the most vividly recognizable and influential works of the twentieth century. Hockney gained notoriety in his mid-twenties, after receiving the Gold Medal from London’s Royal College of Art, and he quickly became one of the defining figures of the British Pop Art movement.
In the late 1960s, Hockney relocated to California and established himself as a prolific figurative and landscape artist. He is perhaps best recognized for the works he produced there: brightly colored, large-scale evocative images of the Southern California lifestyle, and domestic, intimate portraits of his friends, family, and lovers. Hockney’s works are notable for their quietness of subject, flatness of space, and subtle reduction of form.
Hockney has received a vast number of awards and honors, including in 1997 his recognition as a Companion of Honour from the British and Commonwealth Order for his outstanding achievement in the arts.
David Hockney’s work can be found in numerous distinguished public collections around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Art Institute of Chicago; the National Portrait Gallery, London; The Tate Gallery, London; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
Press Release and Exhibition Checklist
David Hockney's "Hearth"
By Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker
i. David Hockney, "I love drawing", Ma Normandie: David Hockney, Galerie Lelong & Co., 103.
ii. Roberta Smith, "David Hockney: A Life in Drawing", The New York Times, October 1, 2020.
iii. Art Basel: Meet the Gallerists, Paul Gray and Valerie Carberry on David Hockney, 2019.
iv. Tim Lewis, "David Hockney: ‘When I’m working, I feel like Picasso, I feel I’m 30’", The Guardian, November 16, 2014.
v. Jackie Wullschläger, "David Hockney shares exclusive new paintings", Financial Times, October 14, 2020.
vi. Meredith A. Brown, "Four Seasons," in David Hockney (London: Tate Enterprises, Ltd, 2017), 187.
vii. David Hockney, in The Thrill is Spatial (Chicago: Richard Gray Gallery, 2013), 21.
ix. David Hockney, "Why Go On Painting in Yorkshire?", David Hockney: The East Yorkshire Landscape (Los Angeles: L.A. Louver, 2007), 11.
xi. Andrew Wilson, "Experiences of Space", in David Hockney (London: Tate Publishing, 2017), 147.