– This posts not about music. I’m on a mini-tour with my band Acres and this is about the art gallery we visited after playing in Leeds. –
Yesterday we went to the Hockney Gallery in Salts Mill, Saltaire; an old mill converted in the late 80’s into an art gallery/boutique shopping mall. It looks disconcertingly like a block of offices and the ground floor room is more of an eerily spacious shop, with original Hockney’s lining the wall. But the oddness of the building doesn’t detract from the impact of the third floor gallery. A breathtaking view out the window; Yorkshire hills in late winter sunlight, interrupted by Hockney portraits, colourful and wonky in a pleasingly familiar way. The work is playful, bright and beautiful and includes a piece called Bessingby road – 3 pictures of the same stretch of road in Hockney’s current home town Bridlington in 3 contrasting seasons. Trees and bins stand out against the snow/green/grey. The final part of the exhibition is a room featuring projections of Hockney’s iphone drawings.
That morning I’d been reading Although of course you end up becoming yourself, a book long interview with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky, conducted during his Infinite Jest publicity tour. There’s an interesting passage where Wallace talks about the need for experimental fiction that is fun to read, but that also “captures and talks about the way the world feels on our nerve endings, in a way that conventional realistic stuff can’t.” I think this is a good description of what Hockney does (although Hockney at this point I guess maybe isn’t considered avante-garde in the sense Wallace is talking about, but never mind that). Capturing a very powerful version of the world, of what we see, using non or maybe semi-realistic styles.
Hockney and Wallace resonated for me yesterday because Hockney is a gift to the viewer, he is really and truly having a conversation with us when we look at his work, just as Wallace is when we read his words. Hockney’s paintings are a pleasure to look at, easy but also innovative and endlessly (for me) interesting. His iphone drawings are fascinating. They are projected rather than printed because, as he points out in an interview “this is a medium of pure light, not ink or pigment.” Wallace talks about the influence of technology on our literary needs, the affect of flash cuts and constant streams of information. Hockney controls technology, utilizing the constant presence of his mobile phone, the near infinity that it offers him in the form of the full colour wheel, to create work entirely in keeping with his own oeuvre but excitingly new.
One painting is particularly effective for me. A landscape of some trees, black and white and grey with areas of clarity, silhouette branches against white sky, moving into areas of clumsy brushstrokes. Nature is both neat and wild in turn. Next to this is a brightly coloured picture of fields and road, pink and green with wildly veering tyre tracks that are at once strange looking and yet clearlytruthfully placed (truthful to vision, if not to perspective). Both pictures powerfully capture my understanding of nature, of what the countryside looks like to me but also what it looks like to Hockney, which is different to me. Our two perspectives have the space to interact within these two paintings.