I sat down with a small group of art friends and watched “A Bigger Picture” a David Hockney documentary, which made for a very pleasant evening, followed up with even more enjoyable discussion and debate.
There is much to appreciate; the free, intuitive work of the hand, the sense of ease and playfulness, and of course the color, witnessing his process as it evolves from relying on photography to exploring nature in person, how he deals with the challenge of completing a large scale 50 panel modular painting for The Royal Academy of Arts in a brief two week period. Luckily he has the means; resources that include hot and cold running assistants to set up easels and supplies, move canvases, and record, digitize, and catalog every piece.
I am intrigued with Hockney’s exploration of alternate forms of perspective, the “moving focus” that Hockney describes – very evident to us in Eastern art, in scroll painting, where the eye is always moving, traveling as the scroll unrolls, rather than locked on a single point. ”Clearly, human eyes do not see in the same way as a single camera lens does.“ How we perceive, how the eye sees, is an ongoing and very basic question for artists, and possibly different for everyone and part of what makes art so interesting.
Watching this documentary may have raised more questions than answers. At least one person didn’t wholly believe that the idyllic English countryside Hockney is painting is real. Fortunately one of our guests grew up there, and validated that the lush pastoral landscape depicted does in fact, exist. We wondered whether the effect in person of the size of the painting is as impressive as it is made out to be. How important is spectacle in art? Is it more than just a method to draw a crowd?
We all wanted to know what happened to Margaret, Hockney’s sister, who moved out of the family home when Hockney and company moved in? And where can we find our own “Jean-Pierre” an essential assistant who seems to take care of all the details that threaten to obstruct the creative process.
In making this large , “difficult” piece, that as Hockney declares, ushers us into the “post photographic age”, is Hockney sincere, or is he thumbing his nose at the art establishment? Hockney himself says, "It is very good advice to believe only what an artist does, rather than what he says about his work."