Hockney at the Royal Academy

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Hockney exhibition whilst I was in London. The online allocation of tickets had long been sold out so I was reliant on buying a ticket once I arrived. The queue for same day tickets was an hour or two long, but for next day tickets it was only 5-10 minutes long. Lucky me.

The following day I turned up and got straight in. It was quite crowded but the timed tickets made sure it wasn’t over-crowded and so it was still easy to get a good look at everything.

The exhibition was much bigger than I’d expected and spanned a period of about fifty years. Many of the paintings depict landscapes, including a series showing the same countryside scene throughout the four seasons.

Not all of the works were paintings however. Several large scales images were actually made up of hundreds of polaroid photos. These photographs were each taken of a tiny part of a huge landscape such as the Grand Canyon and then pieced together jigsaw style to create a whole huge image. The look was really effective and this is something I really must try at some point. I don’t have enough wall space (or enough patience) to do anything on his scale, but even a smaller version would be fun to try.

Hockney has recently discovered iPads and has been using one for his intial sketches. One exhibition room had a series of iPads showing the sketches he’s done. In one of the main exhibition rooms was a group of primary school children all squatting on the floor with their own iPads copying his paintings. It was fascinating to watch them and seeing the iPads in use – they were getting almost as much attention as Hockney!  

One of the best exhibits was a series of films. Hockney was born in Bradford but has lived in Los Angeles for decades. A few years ago he came back to Yorkshire to spend time with his sick mother and rediscovered his love of the place. He’s painted quite prolifically since then, but also got into film-making pioneering a technique using 18 cameras. The cameras were all loaded onto the front of a landrover at different heights and angles. As he drove slowly up a Yorkshire lane the cameras captured the scene from eighteen different perspectives. These films are shown simultaneously on eighteen joined together screens. There is some overlap which in itself creates an interesting effect, but mostly the perspectives merge well to give the impression of actually moving down the lane yourself. One camera, even with a wide-angle lens, shows such a restricted perspective but it’s only when seeing something like this do you realise how restrictive normal photography and filming is. I really felt like I was there and it seemed more realistic than any 3D film I’ve seen.

I spent about two hours at the exhibition and could easily have stayed longer, but I had to leave to ensure I was on time for my floatation appointment. I would highly recommend this exhibition, but do allow plenty of time.

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