Review: David Hockney at the ROM

October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

David Hockney‘s Fresh Flowers exhibit, a collection of works on iphones and ipads, has been criticized by some as superfluous, but it is, I believe, a brilliant next step by this progressive artist who has consistently embraced technology throughout his long and respected career. Hockney is known for his openness to new technology (think about his composite Polaroids and photographic collages); therefore it is no surprise that he would embrace a new medium that allows for spontaneity and technical freedom. What I did find surprising, however, is the complexity of the ipad’s ‘Brushes’ app, which facilitates a remarkable gradation in colour and line work, and the ability to create layers of both transparent and opaque shading. Hockney, manipulates this medium with great complexity and skill, bringing traditional artistic techniques to this modern medium. Videos included in the exhibition record Hockney creating paintings on his ipad, and illustrate his very traditional, ‘painterly’ approach to this modern technology.

As an accompaniment to the exhibition opening, Hockney was interviewed by curator, Charlie Scheips. Scheips attempted to spur Hockney into a defense of his works. Hockney took a more analytical approach in the discussion of his art. Rather than overtly praising his discovery of the ipad as a modern medium, Hockney suggests that you can make art out of anything. In what I consider a brilliant declaration, Hockney stated that when discussing art you would not overtly distinguish pencil art; therefore computer art should be no different. ‘Art is art,’ Hockney matter of factly stated.

Hockney’s reference to an all-encompassing idea of art is evident in the collection. He utilizes this seemingly mechanical and un-artlike medium to create a body of work that is accomplished both technically and artistically. Hockney stated that the ipad’s self-contained ‘Brushes’ app allows him to paint at the moment of inspiration. Without the limitations of a wet, sensitive surface, Hockney can completely change course on a whim. This paradox of spontaneity and studied deliberation has created a wonderfully diverse, and technically brilliant body of work. Hockney modestly stated at the beginning of the discussion that it was only after he had produced over three hundred images that he realized he had created a body of work. However it is clear from the exhibit that Hockney has mastered this new medium and has inserted his own accomplished sense of composition and picturesque beauty into his ipad artworks.

Fresh Flowers
runs at the ROM until January 1, 2012.

– Georgia Erger

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