David Hockney: Bigger and Closer review – an overwhelming blast of passionless kitsch
This was the heading of Jonathan Jones's two star review, posted on February 21st 2023. In his piece he wrote that, Gigantic projections of the painter’s work fill entire walls in this immersive audiovisual extravaganza – but there is no real art to catch the memory or move the soul....
I wonder exactly what your definition of real art is, Mr Jones?
I saw the show today, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I found it engaging and eye-opening and it was a wonderful contrast to the grey damp London day outside. And a wonderful contrast to the miserable world of politics and economics that enshrouds us.
I am not a stranger to art galleries, and I would love to be able to spend time, for instance, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam admiring (studying?) the Vermeer exhibition (though it has been sold out for weeks)..... I suppose that is your idea of real art, Mr Jones?
Video footage of David Hockney driving friends through Malibu Canyon in California with Wagner on the stereo may well not count as real art, but then I am not sure that Warhol's Marilyn, or Edvard Munch's The Scream are quite up there with Rembrandt's The Night Watch.....
This is a very clever, visually entertaining and instructive (to me, at least) show. There are sequences, with a commentary by Hockney himself, which explain something of his "art."
And there are episodes, shall we say, about various periods of, and developments in, his "art." We may not be able to appreciate the brush work, nor to linger for as long as we may choose in front of the "real thing," but we can be immersed in something of the light and the experience..... From California:
To the woods of Yorkshire:
The colours of winter trees:
The colours of summer fields:
The sunshine of Normandy:
And there are ideas expressed - ideas, or, perhaps, to be fair, opinions - on aspects of art and photography, such as this idea gained from a drive through the Alps into Switzerland:
Mr Jones makes some fair points about the way this show dodges from one thing to another, and about how Hockney could have been more explicit about some of his work, rather than, perhaps telling us that Brunelleschi got it wrong (though the Chinese got it right - did I understand that? Does it matter?)
But Mr Jones ends his critique with this: He (Hockney) is sceptical of the camera’s rule over our eyes yet it’s a sad fact that, in this kind of spectacle, photography and film clips have more reality than drawings and paintings. So Hockney in his innocence has lent his fame here to a dumb contemporary fad that doesn’t – and cannot – capture the beauty of his art. It’s ultimately like seeing a great artist through the wrong end of a telescope – smaller and further away.
The phrase, dumb contemporary fad is really not helpful. Do we have to go back to red dye on a cave wall for authenticity? Wasn't painting on damp plaster a dumb contemporary fad once? Leonardo (in Milan) got it wrong, but, amongst others, Michelangelo and Raphael got it right (in Rome). Shouldn't we be glad they persevered?
At least Mr Jones uses the term great artist to describe Mr Hockney, but the way he does it is condescending to both Mr Hockney and to me. I am no art critic, but I know what I like.....
You try so hard but you don't understand
Just what you will say when you get home
Because something is happening here but you don't know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?
Ballad of a Thin Man
As David Hockney himself says: The world is very very beautiful if you look at it, but most people don’t look very much. They scan the ground in front of them so they can walk, they don’t really look at things incredibly well, with an intensity. I do.
Thank you, David Hockney.
I recommend you see this show for yourselves....