David Hockney – Photography is dead…long live painting!
David Hockney by John Minihan 1975
David Hockney’s Self-Portrait with Red Braces (2003). © David Hockney
David Hockney has used photography brilliantly to explore concepts of space and time, but still comes back to his core idea that photography is quite limited by the ‘tyranny of the rectangle’ , the ‘single viewpoint’ and the ‘one moment in time’ .
Let’s explore a little on the ‘one moment in time ‘ idea. He worked on this using his ‘joiners’,once again.
Consider this image of Bill and Noya Brandt (1982) :
Hockney has been able to challenge the ‘one moment’ by piecing together several moments -we know Bill has only two hands yet we we see several hands in different positions and the two subjects are watching how this series of images is being put together. It even shows a polaroid image mid way through processing.
Through Hockney’s study of the Grand Canyon, both through photography and painting he tried to challenge our view on space and perspective.
The Grand Canyon South Rim with Rail, Arizona, Oct 1982, © David Hockney
Hockney wanted ‘to photograph the unphotographable. Which is to say, space … There is no question … that the thrill of standing on that rim of the Grand Canyon is spatial. It is the biggest space you can look out over, that has an edge’.
The Grand Canyon looking North, September 1982
‘when you put one piece of paper on top of another… you put two pieces of time together, [and] therefore make a space. I thought I was making time, then you realise you’re making space… Then you realise time and space are the same thing.’
The Grand Canyon with my Shadow
Through painting, much later (1998)
Canvas study of the Grand Canyon 1998
‘You can peer into it for an awful long time. And you look all over. I mean, it is the one place …
…….where you become very aware of how you move your head, your eyes, everything.
A bigger Grand Canyon
And the colours ?-
‘If you want very strong colour, first of all you have to put it on reasonably thin … and build it up in layers. But I wanted the colour to stay there so you have to put it on in a certain way to build it up rather slowly … let the white of the canvas into it to get the glow. You don’t put white paint in colour that would make it somewhat chalky”
It is interesting to note that not only the idea of overlapping images and building up layers of colour makes links to both his photography and painting – it is in the range of vibrant and imaginative colours that starts to separate the process of photography and painting -although these days use of ‘photoshop’ morphs the two once more.
The link with his ‘joiners’ is through the putting together of 60 smaller canvasses to make up the big painting.
What is Hockney’s views on the relationship between photography and painting?
Is photography dead?
Hockney is challenging the ‘tyranny of the rectangle‘ as well as perspective, space and time.
He tries to provide different perspectives and time on the same surface -is he more successful using paint?
Has photography given him new insights into his painting – such as his studies on the Grand Canyon?
Can you ‘move around a scene‘ in photography?
Has photography huge limitations by often being ‘one point in time?
“There is only now”