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 a British painter, printmaker, photographer and stage designer, who is considered among the most influential and versatile British artists of the 20th century. Hockney is a notable contributor to the pop art movement in Britain, both in its foundation and growth, beginning with his participation in an annual exhibition called ‘Young Contemporaries’ in 1960, which also marked the start of his recognition in the art world. Hockney is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Praemium Imperiale for Painting (1989), and the Lifetime of Artistic Excellence Award (Pratt Institute) in 2018. His work can be found in numerous collections worldwide, including National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, 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, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.
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