David Hockney: I Am a Space Freak
“My sister once said to me she thought space was God. I thought that was rather poetic in a way.” Interview with David Hockney about his endeavour to capture Grand Canyon as a spatial experience in a painting.
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“We like space, I mean, I do, I’m a space freak really.” If a landscape is a spatial experience, then how do you capture it as an artist? The Grand Canyon is the world greatest hole, thrilling to look down into, no focus, no centre, no focal point: “The grandeur of it is very difficult to capture.” Hockney decided to take on the unphotographable, and drove to the Grand Canyon thinking he would make a photographic collage. Once he saw the prints, he was displeased with the result, as they seemed too flat. So he decided to paint it instead.
Hockney did two large scale paintings of Grand Canyon, the first one was based on the photographs, while the second one, ‘A Closer Grand Canyon’, seen in this interview, was painted from drawings which he made while staying in a hotel right by the edge of the canyon. Cameras make things distant, Hockney argues. He also talks of why he decided to work with small canvases, and the problems of both moving and displaying large works of art.
Finally Hockney contemplates cinema and 3D, and why to him even that is a flat experience. ‘Two-dimensional’ doesn’t exist in nature – flatness has to do with human scale: “I’m rather fascinated with flatness.” Today Hockney works with many cameras simultaneously, because they create illusion of space via many perspectives. We really create space in our head, based on time, Hockney adds. To have the feeling of space, a person must look around, freely. Nine camera perspectives means you are forced to move around, constantly scanning the scenery: “9D, isn’t that three times better than 3D?”
David Hockney (b.1937) is an English painter, printmaker, photographer and stage designer, who is considered among the most influential and versatile British artists of the 20th century. Hockney studied at the Royal College of Art where in 1960 he was featured in the exhibition ‘Young Contemporaries’ that announced the arrival of British Pop art. Though he was associated with the movement, his early works display expressionist elements, not dissimilar to some works by Francis Bacon. Hockney sought ways of reintegrating a personal subject-matter into his art, and began tentatively by copying fragments of poems on to his paintings, which later gave way to open declarations in a series of paintings produced in 1960–61 on the theme of homosexual love. In the early 1980s, Hockney began to produce photo collages, which he called “joiners,” first using Polaroid prints and subsequently 35mm, commercially-processed color prints. Using Polaroid snaps or lab-prints of a single subject, Hockney arranged a patchwork to make a composite image. His work can be found in numerous collections worldwide, including National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery and Tate Gallery in London, Museum of Modern Art And Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, De Young Museum in San Francisco and Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. Since the late 1960s, Hockney has had homes in both England and California.
David Hockney was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in 2011.
Camera and edit by: Martin Kogi
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2012
Supported by Nordea-fonden