David Hockney - Early reflections review
On a cold and wet December day, as U2 may have once sung, I didn’t touch the ground at JFK, though I did find myself in Liverpool.
With our initial targets of Primark and Marks and Spencer visited, the girlfriend and I stopped to consider our next step.
The rain was heavy, with a cold wind making it feel worse than it otherwise would do. As much as we both like to meander along together, the ever-worsening weather, doing its best to turn our fingers blue, meant we both agreed that getting inside was our best bet.
Without a destination in mind, we found ourselves near the Walker Art Gallery, where we had seen the surprisingly good Rolf Harris exhibition some months back. Advertised outside was the new show “David Hockney Early reflections”.
The girlfriend admitted to being a fan of some of his work, and though I can’t say anything he has done had ever really taken my fancy, it seemed like a good opportunity to check out more of his work, and so we decided to go in.
The gallery is well laid out, and clearly signposted so that the exhibitions are easy to find (something that couldn’t be said for the underground car park at Liverpool One, which even 24 hours later I’m still surprised we’re not driving around trying to find the exit of).
Having been here only a short while ago, and it being a common destination for my girlfriend anyway, we skipped the normal galleries and went straight for the Hockney exhibit. An audio tour was available for £1.95, but the gallery is just as enjoyable without it. The first thing we came across was a wall of Post-It notes from visitors detailing their experience of their visits, which is self-promotion at it’s finest.
Just along from this was a television showing an edited version of a Hockney documentary following him at work. It was interesting to see him photographing his models which you could then see in displays around the room.
I’d always assumed that paintings were done with live models posing, or from memory, and had never considered how a situation could be set up and documented with film before being transferred to canvas. In the few minutes of the documentary that we chose to watch, there were a couple of scenes of this nature, and Hockney appeared not to interact with his subjects at all.
Hockney´s sexuality is well documented, and in almost all of his early artwork on display in the museum, a nod towards homosexuality was made, whether it was by the repeated use of semi naked male models, or the continued symbolism of his sexuality through the graffiti he scrawled on some of his work, where the word “queen” could often be seen.
Although back in the early sixties this was no doubt edgy and revolutionary, as a man growing up in a generation that is fairly comfortable with homosexuality, it seemed overused and deliberately trying to be provocative to me, showing that perhaps art is easily perceived differently through the ages.
His most famous work is arguably “Peter getting out of Nick’s pool”, which is always on display in the gallery in the John Moore’s exhibition.
This was perhaps my favourite piece, being well painted and clear. Compared to a lot of Hockney’s work, which could be quite crudely drawn, especially when using pencil or ink, this definitely stood out. The gallery said that Hockney liked to work with water themes, pointing out the many pool and shower based art, though again, it declined to touch on the nude and nearly nude men clearly at the heart of these pictures. My other preferred piece, titled “We Two Boys Together Clinging”, again embraced the same themes.
Overall, I’m glad that I went along, though I still remain unconvinced by his artwork. The museum clearly showed how Hockney’s own attitude had changed from his mid-twenties through to his forties, as you can see how his lifestyle was firstly explored and latterly celebrated in his pieces. I’ve never really understood the art world, and as such am quite easily placed to be ignored.
For me, Hockney is celebrated without ever really achieving much through his early art, and quite clearly is better at canvas work with paint than some other art means. The exhibition is definitely worth seeing though, and despite remain firmly unconvinced, both the girlfriend and I still took more than hour wandering around and taking in the 40 works on display.
The David Hockney Early reflections exhibition is on at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool until 16th March 2014, and is free entry for all. Various events are promoted in conjunction with the exhibition, with tours and workshops taking place at the gallery on set dates.
There are also Family Art Clubs, centred around children aged between 7 and 12 years of age (and accompanying adults) which take place on the first weekend of every month before the exhibition closes.