Sarah Morris, Bye Bye Brazil

Sarah Morris

“SM Outlined” 2011

Hello everyone, it has been a long time since my last post, although from now on I plan to be more active with my blog.

I recently visited the latest show of the American born artist Sarah Morris. Her new work was exhibited until last September in the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey.

Sarah Morris is an internationally acclaimed artist who creates paintings along with films which mainly depict urban images.

Almost her entire body of work places the urban space in the centre of action. The cities Morris chooses as her subjects are presented to the viewer as personal narratives and in her own interpretation of the cities, Morris creates a new ultra vision of the place.

Her latest work at the White Cube gallery was titled ‘Bye Bye Brazil’, inspired by Carlos Diegues’ ground-breaking film from the 1970’s about the modernisation of Brazil.

The exhibition was comprised of two rooms, the largest of the two was dedicated to Morris’ large format paintings, along the lines of Op art and the modernism of Mondrian.

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“Jockey Club Brasileiro Rio”, 2012


The next room contained the film “Rio“ (2012), her eleventh movie , where Morris presented the city of Rio de Janeiro in a montage of images accompanied by an experimental soundtrack created by her long time collaborator Liam Gillick.

Both rooms were intricately linked, belonging one to another, establishing a coherent narrative which stimulates the senses and provokes philosophical reflections about life itself and the world we are living in.

The show put Rio in the viewfinder as a city full of contrast and contradiction. The lively culture of Carnival, more optimistic and superficial was highlighted by the bright glossy colours in the paintings, contrasted by the sinister rhythm of the film in which Morris raised questions about the modernization of a city, where great gaps are created among the structures of the society.

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“Academia Militar Rio”, 2012

Morris’ work is deep, actively involved with and aware of the current times. She is a brilliant filmmaker with an independent vibe given by the playful inclusion of macro shots and the added soundtrack, which by the way, I found really interesting, evolving and a perfect companion for the dark and sinister tone of the movie.

Morris’ paintings are presented as intelligent designs, beautifully executed with an exquisite finish. The ’diagrams’ in the large format images give a different dimension to her work, an abstraction of the interpreted reality of her films.

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“Bye Bye Brazil”, 2012

For more details about her work, www.sarah-morris.info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daido Moriyama: Black and White Seduction

Daido Moriyama, Autoportrait

At the Michael Hoppen Gallery we can discover and appreciate a lesser known series of works by a giant of Japanese photography, Daido Moriyama, with a series of black and white prints depicting close-up shots of legs in fishnets and women’s lips. These images are dramatic and erotic, a fine line between art and gaudy excitement.

Produced in 2011, his works‘Tights’ are a continuation of an early series Moriyama began in 1987, How to Create a Beautiful Picture 6: Tights in Shimotakaido.

His latest series, Tights and Lips, differ technically from his early works. The subjects have been blown out of proportion to offer a detailed view, even though in some of the Tightly framed images, it is not immediately obvious what we are seeing, suggesting the sort of optical abstraction from a Bridget Ridley piece.

This series of photographs reflect the art philosophy of a man who has tirelessly dedicated his life to capturing the every day details that are often overlooked, visualizing what others missed.

Moriyama personifies the figure of the photographer as a ‘Hunter’ (book of the same name he wrote in 1971), whose inner desires are captured by his hungry eyes and then transformed into pictures.

He is interested in the immorality of the objects (influenced by Andy Warhol’s idea of giving the everyday objects an erotic twist), and in unconventional camera viewpoints which set the viewer’s mind wandering when encountered with Moriyama’s images.

Completing the exhibition, there are few urban life images which pay homage to the photographer muse and hometown, Shinjuku. It was in this Tokyo district where Moriyama shot most of his photographs.

Although he was born in Osaka, 1938, his family relocated often and only after his father died, he settled down in the red district of the Japanese capital.

He began taking photographs in the early 1960’s, a time of quick economic recovery for Japan after the dark years of the 2nd World War and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His photographs around that time reflected the clash between Japan’s traditional values and a more and more predominant American pop culture.

Moriyama trolled the city, wandered the streets of Shinjuku and explored the remains of a culture in conflict with his heritage. He produced images of gritty urban life with extreme and brutal realism; grainy and blurry, black and white images taken from discomforting angles.

The search for his subjects became the journey of a lifetime and a new era for Japanese photography. Moriyama’s work broke everything that Japanese photography has stood for until that moment.

The result of this journey (inspired partly by Jack Kerouac’s book, On the Road, published in 1957) is currently on display at Tate Modern, London, in a joint exhibition with the American photographer William Klein. Although distanced by a decade, William Klein’s works became Moriyama’s inspiration throughout Klein’s book New York, out in Japan in 1957.

In this exhibition, one of his most famous images can be seen, Stray Dog, Misawa, Aomori, 1971, which became Moriyama’s self-portrait.

In his own words […] ‘I had become a stray dog through and through and I could not longer forget the pleasure of being without a collar’ […].

Tights and Lips is on at Michael Hoppen Gallery until the 20th of October 2012, http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com

William Klein+Daido Moriyama is on at Tate Modern until 20th January 2013, www.tate.org.uk

The Wapping Project

In this post I will not focus exclusively in writing the review of an art exhibition but will also share, with all my readers, my recent discovery of a beautiful spot in London.

I am talking about the old Wapping Hydraulic Power Station which today houses the widely acclaimed ‘The Wapping Project’.

Wapping Hydraulic Power Station- The Wapping Project

Before talking about the exhibition, let me introduce you the oldest (not only in London but in the world) Hydraulic Power Station. It was the last of its kind and closed in 1977.

Built in 1890, it harnessed Thames water to provide power, not only to the surrounding docks, but also throughout the central London area. When first built, the pumping station at Wapping was steam driven converted to electricity in the 1950s. Hydraulic power was used to raise and low almost anything that needed to be moved up and down; for London theatres it was essential: the revolving stages of both the London Palladium and the Coliseum were powered hydraulically, as were the lifts for the organ consoles at the Leicester Square Theatre and the Odeon Marble Arch, and the fire curtains of both the Drury Lane and Her Majesty’s Theatres. Hydraulic power was widely used in museums too, for example, for driving the picture lift at the Royal Academy and the fire hydrants at the National Gallery.

Wapping Hydraulic Power Station lies between the Shadwell Old Basin and the well-known pub, The Prospect of Whitby (also, the oldest riverside pub in London circa 1520). The nearest tube station, no doubt, is Wapping. The area is bordered with warehouses such the Metropolitan Wharf and the Jubilee and Lusk Wharves, now refurbished and converted in luxury flats.

It is a very pleasant and relaxed walk into London’s industrial history and part of the Wapping Wall conservation area.

The building was bought by the Women’s Playhouse Trust and opened as the Wapping Project in 2000.

The conversion of the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station for The Wapping Project was designed and conceived by architectural and design practice SHED 54, returning this historic building to its essential structural form. The lower floor provides exhibition and performance spaces. These have been created from the Boiler and Filter Houses, which have both been stripped back to their 1890 form. To fulfil the extremely varied uses required of them (including, for the opening installation, flooding of the floor), the spaces have been designed for the greatest possible flexibility.

The upper floor where the Engine and Turbines Houses used to be is filled by the award-winning restaurant Wapping Food; a combination of fancy furniture and contemporary cuisine.
The new architectural additions reflect today’s technology, and make a quiet but clear distinction between what is old and what is new. The new insertions are intended to emphasise the industrial scale of the building by their own lightness of touch for example, in the case of the new suspended staircase that does not touch the ground.

Wapping Food – Engine and Turbine Houses

The Wapping Project is the creation of the distinguished theatre director, Jules Wright and all the work produce is new, commissioned and site-specific; the product of twenty year’s experience and an un-challenged record of commissioning artists who have become major players in the UK’s cultural landscape.

Until the 26th of August the Boiler House is occupied for The Revery Alone, an installation by the acclaimed Scottish choreographer Billy Cowie.

The Revery Alone Projection

Here I leave you a succinct description of the artistic experience:

‘Right before coming into the space there is a table with 3d glasses. I grab a pair and leave behind the heavy and squeaked door to enter into the exhibition space, the old Boiler House. I encounter the darkness. My feelings of confusion and disorientation make me feel quite uneasy initially. No lights, nothing to guide me but a mysterious soundtrack filling the air.

All of the sudden, an image appears, projected onto the ceiling and a hint of clarity fills the room. The light allows me to realise that below the projection several old fashion hospital beds lay on the floor; cold iron beds…

I go down the unlit stairs slowly and carefully, reach the floor below and lay on one of the beds with my 3d glasses on.

In that instant she appears, on top of me like a vision in a state of ill delirium, this gigantic naked women; she is lying on a bed like mine and twisting her body in the most un-human form; so close, I can almost touch her; she could easily drop on top of me at any moment.

For seven minutes I contemplated her movements, with astonished attention, watching her mystical dance, her sculptural body.

All of a sudden, she fixed her eyes on mine, then she evaporated, taking the light with her, leaving me alone in the dark and in a cold bed.’

The whole setting of this installation places the viewer at the centre of the action as soon as the threshold is crossed. It is almost like entering a haunted house with all the accompanying odd noises; the encounter with this woman who appears like a vision on the ceiling while we are lying on a bed once occupied by the ill.
This rare artistic environment has been the result of the clever use of the architectural frame of the old Boiler House and the use of 3d technology.
You can view this installation until August the 26th.

It is not only this piece, but the whole visit to the ‘new’ Wapping Hydraulic Power Station that makes the visit worth while.
For more information visit the Wapping Project website.

Polly Morgan: Endless Plains

My recent visit to the latest Polly Morgan’s exhibition, Endless Plains, instantly made me fall in love with the work of this 32 years old woman; not a rare thing since Morgan has become, in a very short time and with a relatively small body of work, the next hot thing in the British contemporary art scene; the lead for a new generation of Young British Artists (YBA’s).

Morgan uses taxidermy to produce her work, a rare and unconventional technique for a visual artist. She has come up with the most bizarre creations with a morbid and dark undertone but nevertheless beautiful presentations using mainly petite animals such birds, quail chicks, rodents and such like, which she places in unusual surroundings, not the animals natural habitats. The process is a long and skilful one. She will build the animals from scratch, using a scalpel and  tweezers to remove the flesh and bones, leaving only the animal’s skin, the feathers or the fur… But do not panic animal lovers, Morgan only uses animals that either are road casualties or the have been donated to the artist by pet owners and vets after natural or unpreventable deaths.

It is curious how Miss Morgan has ended being on the top of the arts A-list as she never has studied art. Morgan grew up in the Cotswolds, her mother worked in a florist and as a secretary and her father was employed by a company specialising in the artificial insemination of cattle. She studied English Literature at the Queen’s Mary University of London, she would cover her expenses by working as a barmaid at the Electricity Showrooms in Shoreditch. This bar was a popular spot for artists and there she met people like her ex-fiancée Paul Frier and Damian Hirst among others, beginning a friendship with the subversive first generation of YBA’s. When she graduated in 2002, she took the job as a manager and with it, the flat above. She wanted decorate her walls with stuffed animals but, due to the lack of decent specimens that were available to buy online, she decided to travel to Edinburgh to learn the technique with the professional taxidermist George Jamieson.

Since she came back from Scotland with a stuffed pigeon under her arm, Morgan hasn’t stopped for a moment, producing work that has caught the attention of artists  like Banksy to celebrities like Kate Moss and Courtney Love. Some of her most famous works are her first four pieces; bell jar installations for a friend’s bar opening in Bethnal Green: A lovebird looking in a mirror, a squirrel holding a bell jar with a little fly perched on top of a sugar cube inside, a magpie with a jewel in its beak and a couple of chicks standing on a miniature coffin. Other later works included a rat curled-up in a champagne glass, Still Life after Death (rabbit), To Every Seed of his own body and Departures.

Love Bird

Still Life After Death (Rabbit)

Her new exhibition, Endless Plains, is the result of a safari holiday she took last summer to Africa in the Serengeti region. Despite the vibrant and eclectic fauna that filled this vast region, Morgan focused her attention on the animal corpses that littered the grounds. Her preference for the brutal side of Nature’s law was inspired by her hospitalisation and near death where her appendix burst and she developed gangrene and peritonitis. Her stay in a hospital bed allowed her to reflect on the circle of birth/life/death.

Her new work is all about the host/parasite relationship, illustrated in perverse or unusual ways: piglets suckling on a dead tree sap running down their chins as though they have drained it of life, phallic mushrooms spring from dead bodies and are eaten by birds, a stag with an opened stomach hosting bats inside hanging on the ribs.

The Fall 2012

Hide and Fight 2012

Each installation is presented beautifully on plinths and being illuminated as if heaven opened above these freak creations to finally let them rest peacefully. Darkness and silence fills the rest of the room with a sudden feeling of being transferred to another reality/dimension. A series of drawings complete the exhibition, representing bird nests marvellously drawn using the cremated bird remains that once filled them. On the top of the frames, the dead birds rest in peace. Beyond the monstrous nature of her sculptures, a glimpse of beauty opens, hanging on one of the gallery walls with romantic, delicate and clever portraits of life and death.

Death has become the subject in Morgan’s projects. Even though it is a difficult subject to deal with for us, human beings, it seems that through an animal perspective, death isn’t so cruel, death becomes life.

This is an unmissable show from an unforgettable artist. Polly Morgan is doing her bit to open a new channel for young generations of artists while patiently, with scalpel in hand, she builds an extraordinary body of work. Keep a tight eye on Morgan; she will provide a lot more to talk about.

The exhibition runs until the 31st of July at the All Visual Arts gallery, King’s Cross. For more information visit: All Visual Arts, Polly Morgan

Gillian Wearing, Whitechapel Art Gallery

Gillian Wearing is a British artist, part of the Young British Artists (YBA) group. She won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1997 and was elected Royal Academician in 2007.

Wearing was born in Birmingham in 1963 and came to London in the early 80’s. After studying at the Chelsea School of Art, she went to Goldsmith College in Camberwell, graduating in 1990.
The next decade she took part in exhibitions like ‘Brilliant!’ (1995) and ‘Sensations‘ (1997), shows that earned the YBA’s a global recognition as an establish art movement. Among other trade-marks of the group were their ‘wild-art’ running spirit, with a licence to shock, irritate and even perturb; the used of low-key/disposable/junk materials and an entrepreneurial attitude.

Gillian Wearing, together with other YBA’s like Tracy Emin or Damian Hirst, has gained a respected position within the arts world as an individual artist. Her work explores the subject of Identity in an open and free-forming type of portraiture, as she has defined it, using video, film and photography.

Her current exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in East London, curated by Daniel F. Herrmann and Candy Stobbs, is a survey of some of her best-known works.

Immediately entering the first room, Wearing welcomes us with a dance. ‘Dance in Peckham’ (1994) shows the artist performing frantically in the middle of a shopping mall. The interesting thing of the act is that there is not any music playing, instead Wearing is moving to a soundtrack in his imagination.

In this sort of self-portrait, Wearing presents herself to the world without any inhibition, almost tripping. Meanwhile shoppers turn their heads in surprise not knowing how to react towards such an awkward spectacle.

This first video exposes one of the many angles that the subject of Identity takes in Wearing’s work; interested in human phychology, Wearing talks about the complexity of the human behaviour, which in many occasions through life has to hide behind a mask, sometimes metaphorically and sometimes literally. How we present ourselves to the world is not necessarily what goes on inside our heads.

Physically, the rest of that gallery space seems to have transformed into a film studio backstage divided into high individual wooden structures; multitude of sounds fills the room as if rehearsals would be taken place inside each cubicles. However the colour lighting bathing the room seems to transform the film studio into a peep show… as if a voyeuristic spectacle would be waiting for us to be secretly watched.

The influence of film, theatre and TV is palpable in Wearing work. Behind the wooden structures, videos and films are playing; these works were produced with help of professional actors and under the influence of 1970’s fly-on-the-wall documentaries.

Again the recurring subject of Identity is reflected in these mini dramas. In the case of ‘10-16’ (1997), adult actors lip-synch the pre-recorded voices of children and adolescents making personal revelations, talking about their anxieties and preoccupations. Here the adults are the masks behind which children hide. Wearing uses documentary realism with a voyeuristic hint when for instance, a naked dwarf appears sat on a bath reveling one of the children’s confessions.

The mask, literally speaking, is the protagonist in the second gallery space. In ‘The Album’ photographs (1993 onwards), Wearing poses as members of her family and her artistic idols, among them Andy Warhol or Robert Mapplethorpe. In a similar way to the American Cindy Sherman and the French Orland transformed her identity for each image, Wearing uses costumes, wigs and silicone prosthetic masks to recreate, in detail, the portrait images. The results raise questions around loss, the passage of time and disintegrating identity.

Self Portrait as my Mother Jean Gregory, 2003

Me as Mapplethorpe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The rest of the gallery space is filled with several cabin type structures as if, again, we were about to enter into a Peep show. ‘Confess all on video. Don’t worry, you will be in disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian’ (1994) shows a series of people wearing a mask revealing some of their most deeply buried secrets. This is quite a dark piece of work, fascinating on the other hand, on how human psychology works. How we are able to confess it all once we know we are saved from being identified, pointed out or stigmatised by society.

Trauma (2000)

Behind the lens of a camera Wearing is able to connect with her subjects, persuade them to disclose their private thoughts and discover a feeling of empathy for even the darkest side of the human condition.

One of my favourite works in the exhibition ‘Prelude’ (2000) shows a close-up of Lindsey, a homeless woman who is seemingly under the effects of alcohol. She filmed Lindsey’s quick changes of mood while holding a beer in her hands and a cigarette behind her ear. In a voiceover, her twin sister reveals that less than two weeks after the footage was shot, Lindsey died of pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver. That voiceover exposes the intimate almost mystical connection that the twins had. Perfectly edited, this video is homage, a portrait of one of those forgotten and ignored souls of our society. The tenderness of the smiling sick Lindsey is transformed instantly into a dark gesture that serves a reminder of the passage from life to death.

The last room contains her landmark work, ‘Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say’ (1992-1993).
This series of photographs shows people Wearing approached on the street, to ask them to write their most innermost thoughts on a piece of cardboard. The results were surprising and confusing. In one of the pictures, a smart-looking man is holding a sign that reads: ‘I am desperate’. Reality and fiction and truthful feelings are again the recurring subjects in Wearing’s work.

Wearing’s exploration of human psychology goes even deeper than we think at first glance. Questioning handed down truths, Wearing exposes a world morally and socially trapped in its conventions, suffering in silence.

She makes the world talk freely, providing masks and pieces of blank cardboard. Wearing’s camera acts as liberator and executor, the accomplice and the impartial eye to remind us of an important lesson in life; do not judge the book by its cover.

Alighero Boetti: Game Plan

Tate Modern holds a retrospective of the Italian artist Alighero Boetti. The exhibition, curated by Mark Godfrey, has taken three years to research and put together. A fact that says quite a lot of the peculiar figure of Boetti who invested a great deal of his life producing a wide body of work, most of which is shown in this exhibition.

Alighero Boetti

Alighero Boetti 

Alighero Boetti was born in Turin in 1940. He abandoned his studies in business to work as an artist. Being born in one of Italy’s main industrial centres, his first incursion into the art world was one influenced by the colours and materials of the manufacturing business. In his first solo show in 1967, he cramped the galley like a hardware store and the invitation was a grid of samples of all the materials he used to make his works (cardboard, wood, rubber, glass, plastic…).

Untitled (Invitation) 1966-1967

Later that year, he took part in a group exhibition in Rome. The artists in the show were using modest materials and techniques; a unique art form of expression that led the Italian art critic Germano Celant to associate the group to the term Arte Povera; objects made from everyday materials that took art of its pedestal.

Boetti however, was not happy to be framed in a single art movement and in 1969, he organized a solo show which became a statement on his rejection of Arte Povera.

His art, throughout his life, took many different directions based on the vast amount of ideas that crossed his mind.

From 1972 he started to explore the figure of the artist who was often seen as half human half divinity. The idea of the double personality took Boetti to name himself Alighero e Boetti (Alighero and Boetti) and to represent himself with his twin as in his work Gemeli, 1968.

Gemeli (Twins) 1968 

This idea of multiplicity was explored by Boetti in many other art forms using mathematical sequences, numbers patterns, codes, magical squares…etc.
For instance, in 1969 Boetti made his first postal works. Viaggi Postali (Postal Voyages), consisted of sending envelopes to false addresses to a series of famous characters. The envelopes were returned to him, photocopied, placed inside a larger envelope and sent off again. Each character made a series of ‘boomerang journeys’ planned out by the artist. In some postal pieces, the number of envelopes in the work would be determined by the sum of possible colour combinations of the stamps, in others, he made them based on the value of the stamps.

In his work Dama 1967, he used a chequerboard pattern to evoke an absurd domino-like game, and Ordine e disordine 1973 are 100 multicoloured word squares dispersed on the wall.
From 1993 Boetti created a set of rugs whose patters are based on numeric systems.

Alternando da uno a cento e viceversa (Alterating from one to one hundred and vice versa)

Concepts of chance and the pass of time are reflected in his famous Lampada Annuale 1966, which illuminates for eleven seconds every year creating a sense of expectation for an event few people will see.

From 1970 he travelled to Guatemala, Ethiopia and Sudan, coinciding with the hippy era and fascinated by the non-western cultures. He also travelled to Afghanistan visiting Kabul twice a year until 1979, year of the Soviet invasion.
It was during this time that some of his most famous works were produced.

In Kabul he set the One Hotel where he worked with local craftswomen to create the Mappa, large scale embroideries reflecting the geopolitical changes occurring form the middle of the Cold war to its end.

Mappa 1971-1972

From 1971 he started covering sheets of paper with biro pen where comas and rows of letters encoded some of Boetti’s favourite phrases, Mettere al Mondo il Mondo (Bringing the world into the world). Later, he delegated the work to students in Rome.

Mettere al mondo il mondo 1973-1975

Other impressive works are The Thousand Longest Rivers in the World 1976-1978. Working with his wife and art critic, Annemarie Sauzeau, they conducted years of extensive research to create a book and two embroideries containing the classification of the longest rivers on Earth. An extravagant expenditure of time leading to the absurd as the classification is provisional and illusory as it is changing all the time.

Boetti often collaborated with other people, artists and non artists. In many cases, he gave them great freedom.
From 1978 Boetti focused on drawings made in his studio in Rome. Assistants completed those parts of the drawings that were traced or copied form other images.

Ideas about making were fundamental in Boetti’s work. For him, anything in the world was potentially useful for the artist. This is reflected in a body of work defined by many materials and techniques; from waste materials of the urban life to the finest embroidery work; from the postal service to magazines covers and biro pens.

The categorization of Boetti as a Conceptual artist finally did the job. Whenever he has fixation on an idea, he followed it through- no matter where it might lead, how long it took to get there or how absurd the conclusion turned out to be.
He was a thinker and his brain a pressure cooker as reflected in his last creation before his death. Self- Portrait 1993 represents a bronze figure pouring water onto a mind hot with ideas.
I Sei Sensi’ (the six senses) Boetti used to say; fascinated by the idea of though being one of the senses.

Self-Portrait 1993

I highly recommend visiting this show. A pleasant exhibition; well organized and cleverly displayed so any visitor who has never heard or known before of Boetti can easily get a good idea of his work.

The exhibition runs until the 27th of May 2012 at Tate Modern, London. www.tate.org.uk

David Hockney RA: A ‘ Bigger’ Picture

This year, London will turn out in its finest for the celebration of the Olympic Games. During ‘London 2012’, the city will offer plenty of opportunity to the visitors to enjoy the best entertainment and culture.

The main art institutions and museums in the capital won’t be missing this chance and will make the most of the arrival of thousand of visitors to the city. They will be hosting attractive exhibitions which will prove the patience when queuing that the British are so well-known for.

The first major exhibition of the year is happening at the Royal Academy of Arts. After the  high number of visitors that David Hockney brought to the museum with his piece ‘Bigger Trees near Water’, showed at the Summer Exhibiton in 2007, the R.A. has dedicated its Main galleries to the so loved British artist.

For those less familiar with David Hockney, he was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in 1937. David Hockney came to the public attention while still a student at the Royal College of Art, London, which he attended from 1959 to 1962. He settled in Los Angeles in 1964 and is still very much associated with the work that he produced there. That is paintings of California swimming pools, lifestyle and images of homosexuality like his famous piece ‘BiggerSplash’ in 1967, part of the Tate collection. He was elected an Associated Royal Academician in 1985 and a full Royal Academician in 1991.

David Hockney RA: A ‘Bigger’ Picture, celebrated the artist’s depiction of landscape, particularly his re-engagement with the Yorkshire wolds. Most of the works on display: oil paintings, charcoals, iPad drawings, sketchbooks and films were produced in the last 8 years and many are being shown for the first time. The new work is contextualised by a selected group of earlier landscape work, dating as far back as 1956, to illustrate Hockney’s long held interest in representing the natural world.

Entering the first gallery of the exhibition (the octagonal gallery), we find the piece ‘Thxiendale Trees’, 4 big paintings made up of eight canvas’.  These four big paintings should be interpreted as an introduction of the themes and motifs repeated again and again throughout 12 galleries, highlighting Hockney’s love for the Yorkshire landscape.

The Thxiendale series introduce the Tree as a key motif, depicted in many of the paintings in this exhibition; in some of the works big, tall trees form a path that invite the visitor to take part of the view.

A closer Winter Tunnel, February- March 2006

The path or road is another recurrent subject that always has been present at Hockney’s work since the times of ‘Pearblossom Highway’, picture dating far back to 1986 that can be seen at this exhibition too.

Pearblossom Highway, 1986

The rural landscape of Yorkshire is what interests Hockney in his latest creations. This interest began back in 1997 when he spent six moths in Yorkshire in order to be near his close friend and supporter Jonathan Silver, who was terminally ill. Hockney painted his native county for the first time in almost 50 years. The result was 6 works painted by memory, picking key landmarks of the agricultural terrain that strongly evoked the spirit of his homeland landscape.

Painting in series is the way Hockney has chosen to bring to the spectator the power, smells, feelings, and sounds of his home landscape into paintings. By depicting the same scene throughout the four seasons, Hockney captures the seasonal weather condition and the variations of light. As Monet would had done with his series of ‘Waterlillies’, Hockney placed his easel at a fix point and returned many time throughout 2006 to record the same scene.

Woldgate Woods, 21, 23, and 29 November 2006

Of all the seasons, spring is the one which is the protagonist in this exhibition, occupying the biggest gallery at the Academy. ‘The Arrival of Spring inWoldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty- eleven)’, records the transition from winter through to late spring on one small road in 51 prints and one large painting.

The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-twelve), oil painting

Again, Hockney embraces the latest technology in his work. He has used faxes to send painting to his friends, and used digital cameras. For some of the works in this exhibition Hockney uses an iPad to paint, with the app ‘Brushes’, which helps him to quickly capture the changing light and weather conditions of a scene.

The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011, iPad drawing

The last three galleries are dedicated to works that Hockney made specifically for this exhibition, including digital film work and large iPad prints depicting the monumental Yosemite Valley in California, an exploration of the sublime area of natural beauty.

This vast exhibition that displays over 150 works has proven to be very popular with an average of 6000 visitors in the week and almost doubling the numbers during the weekend. However, it seems to me that the Academy has played it safe. Hockney was considered, in the past, to be quite the ‘wild thing’ although here, it seems that all that bravery has been lost somewhere along the way.

The man who after years of glamorous life in one of the hottest cities on earth (Los Angeles) has made a return to his homeland, revisiting everything he probably refused to love the day he left for new pastures…

Hockney has reinvented himself, entering in the tradition of British landscape.

The exhibition runs until the 9th of April 2012 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Burlington House, W1J 0BD.