From LA to London, and Back Again

4/6/2012 11:05:00 AM

From LA to London, and Back Again

Hollywood had a spotlight amongst the David Hockney pictures that were on show at the Royal Academy.

If brights and colour are big in fashion right now then from the art world nothing complements this more perfectly than the bold, pill-popping brightness on display in the works of David Hockney. The scene outside the Royal Academy, off London’s Piccadilly, this week is chaos. A crowd of hundreds is clamoring and crying to get into the last days of this - the great Hockney exhibition, ‘A Bigger Picture.’ The Yorkshire-born artist has sure come a long way since growing up in Bradford, West Yorkshire. After the crowds comes the first four works, four huge landscapes of the same set of trees in Thixendale, Yorkshire in the different seasons. After passing through the madness of the eager crowd, one enters the Central Hall of Burlington House and calm descends before these works. Each season is two meters by five - this is the woods on an awe-inspiring scale of beauty. On closer inspection the fields of Autumn dissolve into dots of shocking pink (a colour which Yorkshire is not famous for.)

But in the second room we dive from Yorkshire into Hollywood with the fabulous Mulholland Drive – The Road to the Studio (1980). This was based on his drives from his home in the Hollywood Hills to his studio and he loved the lush, bright colours of Southern California. Others from the period include Beverly Hills Housewife (Hockney is not cheap, this went for just under $8 million at Christie’s in 2009.) But Mulholland Drive you can see for yourself when it’s home – it will shortly be returning from London to LACMA.

“I remember flying in on an afternoon,” Hockney says in the Christopher Sykes biography, “and as we flew in over Los Angeles I looked down to see blue swimming pools all over.” This was something the Englishman realized was not a luxury in LA, but a necessity. It was fortunate for the artist that friends arranged someone to meet him at the airport – “If you don’t drive how are you going to get into the city?” asked his dealer. “I’ll just catch a bus,” Hockney replied. He may not have been allowed to catch the bus – but he still managed to cycle 17 miles by mistake the next day.

But LA is a million miles away from most of the pictures in the exhibition, many of them fresh works - his great innovation is the use of an iPad, on which he has worked since its launch in 2010: “The more I got into the iPad, the more I realized what a fantastic medium it is for landscape. There are certain things that you can do very, very quickly.”

But one of the new great works is an oil that awaits around the corner. “I wanted the floating feeling of very early spring, when the first leaves appear,” Hockney says of The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011, an enormous canvas. Hockney loved LA but this is the climax of his love affair with a very different set of colours – that of the English countryside. 

Contributing Editor: Richard Dennen

Photo credit: 

Oli Scarff/Getty Images Europe