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“David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture” at the Royal Academy of Arts.

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Winter Timber, 2009 © David Hockney, ph. Johnathan Wilkinson

“David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture” at the Royal Academy of Arts.

David Franchi – Wednesday, 25th january 2012

“involved in the use of new technologies”

The return of David Hockney to the Royal Academy of Arts is a great event. “David Hockney RA: A bigger picture” exhibition shows his most celebrated landscape works. The major source of inspiration is the Yorkshire, the English countryside much beloved by the British artist where he is born and returned few years ago to live.

Spanning fifty years of the life of the artist, “David Hockney RA: A bigger picture” has vibrant paintings, many large in scale and created specifically for the exhibition are shown alongside related drawings and films.

David Hockney RA: A bigger picture” includes three groups of new work made since 2005, when Hockney returned to live in Bridlington, showing an intense observation of his surroundings in a variety of media. The emotional engagement with the landscape David Hockney knew in his youth is underlined, as he examines on a daily basis the changes in the seasons, the cycle of growth and variations in light conditions.

David Hockney RA: a bigger picture” focus on the various approaches that Hockney has taken

The arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorshire, in 2011 (twenty eleven) © David Hockney, Ph. Johnathan Wilkinson

The arrival of spring, one of a 52 part work, 2011

towards the depiction of landscape. Past works from national and international collections includes ‘Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians’ (1965), ‘Garrowby Hill’ (1998) and ‘A Closer Grand Canyon’ (1998) an oil on 60 canvases.

David Hockney RA: a Bigger Picture” has strong connection with the classical paintings of the Old Masters from which it is clearly inspired, a sort of return to the past, elaborated by the huge knowledge and study Hockney has made of their techniques.

The conception Hockney has about the representation of space is traced in this exhibition from the 1960s, through his photocollages of the 1980s and the Grand Canyon paintings of the late 1990s, to the recent paintings of East Yorkshire, many of which have been made en plein air.

David Hockney has always been involved in the use of new technologies and lately he has used the iPhone and iPad as tools for making art. A number of iPad drawings and a series of new films produced using eighteen cameras are displayed on multiple screens, providing a hypnotic visual experience.

The big hawthorne, 2008 © David Hockney, P. Richard Schmidt

Highlights of the Royal Academy exhibition works are to be set in the framework of the extensive investigation and attraction with landscape David Hockney has undertaken in his career. The focus of “David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture” is solely on his work on landscape. His body of work, of course, is much larger and it includes many other pieces.

This is the point with this exhibition. The artistic life of David Hockney considered alongside of this exhibition has misplaced some critics. Hockney is considered an enfant terrible. He began to make scandal even in his graduation day when he did it in a shining gold jacket of lamé. Later on with his notorious gay sexuality and his works on young male nude under the California sun. In 2005 he went back to his native Yorkshire and started to depict the Wolds on enormous canvases. It seems to be a jump back in the past. Or maybe the artist is getting older and therefore more nostalgic. However, these paintings are very good but has lost much of its demystifying impact on society.

David Hockney, OM, CH, RA, (born 9th July 1937) is based in Bridlington, Yorkshire and Kensington, London. He attended the Bradford School of Art before studying at the Royal College of Art (1959 – 1962). Hockney’s stellar reputation was established while he was still a student; his work was featured in the exhibition Young Contemporaries, which signed the birth of British Pop Art.

Sometimes, his works make reference to his love for men. In 1963 Hockney visited New York, making contact with Andy Warhol. A subsequent visit to California, where he lived for many years, inspired Hockney to make a series of paintings of swimming pools in Los Angeles, using the comparatively new acrylic medium and rendered in a highly realistic style using vibrant colours.

Hockney was born with synesthesia; he sees synesthetic colours to musical stimuli. However, it is a

Nov 7th, Nov 26th 2010 Woldgate Wood 11:30am &9:30am © David Hockney

common underlying principle in his construction of stage sets for various ballets and operas.

In 1974, Hockney was the subject of Jack Hazan’s film, A Bigger Splash (named after one of Hockney’s swimming pool paintings from 1967). He was elected a Royal Academician in 1991.

In the 2001 television programme and book, Secret Knowledge, Hockney posited that the Old Masters used camera obscura techniques. Hockney argues that this technique migrated gradually to Italy and most of Europe, and is the reason for the photographic style of the Renaissance paintings.

He is a staunch pro-tobacco campaigner. In October 2010 he and 100 other leading artists signed an open letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt protesting against cuts in the arts.

“David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture” has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne. The exhibition has been curated by the independent curator Marco Livingstone and Edith Devaney, the Royal Academy of Arts.

“David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture” is sponsored by BNP Paribas Group.

Showing from 21st January until 9th April 2012.

At the Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, London.


Written by davidfranchi

June 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

“Damien Hirst” retrospective at Tate Modern.

In and out of love (white paintings and live butterflies), 1991 © Londonartpress.com

“Damien Hirst” retrospective at Tate Modern.

David Franchi – 21st June 2012

Damien Hirst” is the first extensive exhibition ever held in the UK about the best paid British artist.

Damien Hirst is widely regarded as one of the most important working artist today. He has created some of the most iconic artworks in recent history. The Tate Modern exhibition is a survey of his innovative work spanning through two decades from the beginning of his career to recent days. It brings together over seventy of his prominent works. It also forms part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.

Damien Hirst first came to public attention in 1988 when he conceived and curated ‘Freeze’, an exhibition of his own work and those of his friends and fellow Goldsmiths College students, staged in a disused London warehouse. Many of the works he created at that time are on display at Tate Modern for the first time since the 1980s.

The exhibition “Damien Hirst” is organised in a chronological order, presenting early works – for example ‘Spot painting’ (1986), ‘8 pans’ (1987) and ‘Boxes’ (1988) – made using the collage technique that allowed Hirst to reconciling painting and sculpture, while the process of selecting and arranging existing objects allowed him to structure his work.

Another of his themes is the Medical Cabinets. “Damien Hirst” displays some good examples,

The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living, 1991, © LondonArtPress.com

including the first work ‘Sinner’ (1988), made of the prescription his grandmother had given to him before she died. Following works were made of pristine pharmaceutical packaging. ‘Pharmacy’ (1992) is a room with an extensive multi-part installation expanding to replicate the environment of a pharmacy within a gallery setting. Medicine Cabinets are an indirect way of thinking about the body.

From the Medical Cabinets to the Surgical Cabinets is a small leap and, indeed, Tate Modern shows a room arranged like a surgery filled with medical, surgical and anatomical equipment, showing works such as ‘Lapdancer’ (2006).

Wincing but more relaxed people could be seen again facing the Spin Paintings, works made with household gloss paint, such as ‘Beautiful, childish, expressive, tasteless, not art, over simplistic, throw away, kid’s stuff, lacking integrity, rotating nothing but visual candy, celebrating, sensational, inarguably beautiful painting (for over the sofa)’ (1996). Damien Hirst used a mechanical process to create these works – each canvas is pun on a turntable while different coloured paints are poured on the rotating canvas from above.

Another very renowned piece – but in the meantime dismaying – on show at the Tate Modern exhibition is ‘A thousand years’ (1990). This is the first work of Damien Hirst where an arrangement of components is enclosed within a glass vitrine. It contemplates a life cycle, with maggots and the scandalous cut cow’s head together with the remains of a barbecue, carrion food and industrial packaging.

From the beginning Damien Hirst has produced works encompassed in the Natural History series, including a sheep’s head ‘Stimulants (and the way they affect the mind and the body) (1991), a whole sheep ‘Away from the flock’ (1994), or the notorious real shark ‘The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living’ (1991). All of the latter are real animals immersed in a formaldehyde solution and contained in a glass display case, a brand of Hirst’s work. It can be seen in other rooms at the Tate Modern exhibition, including the last piece on show ‘The incomplete truth’ (2006), a dove which seems to fly, or ‘Mother and child divided’ (2007) – a cow and a calf both severed in two and the four parts put in four different cases and it is possible to pass in the middle of it seeing the entrails.

Crematorium, 1996, © Londonartpress.com

In another room Damien Hirst installed ‘Crematorium’ (1996) a huge ashtray with cigarettes butts and sand and, as it is a real one, rank. Cigarettes are used in others works, such as ‘Dead ends died out, examined’ (1993).

After all these heavy forms of art expression, to soothe visitors the most colourful but live installation is the room ‘In and out of love (white paintings and live butterflies) (1991) which is a humid environment containing living butterflies that fly around freely and live out their natural life cycle. It is a sort of artificial paradise, where pupae are delivered three times a week and butterflies are fed with fruit or pollen, depending on their species. Walls are bestrewed with the cocoons of these delicate living things that flap at joyous people in bright clothes. Butterflies theme is also used in other Damien Hirst’s works on display, for example ‘Sympathy in white major – Absolution II‘ (2006).

Last but – of course – not least is ‘For Love of God’ (2007). The iconic diamond –covered skull is on show in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, free entrance. This life-size platinum cast of an eighteen century human skull covered by 8,061 flawless diamonds, inset with the original skull teeth. At the front of the cranium is a 52.4 carat pink diamond. Since it was first displayed in 2007, it has been widely recognised has one of the most significant work of contemporary art.

This last piece as the entire production of Damien Hirst represents his continued interest in life and death, and belief and value systems, resounding the biblical Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven. His whole production is obviously doomed by his Catholic background, despite he proclaims to be a sceptic, and it is absolutely clear to be seen in his works, especially for the ones displayed at Tate Modern. However, the production of Hirst has become more pretentious over the years; it seems he begins to slightly lack inventive and to address himself more to the market than to the art.

Born in Bristol (UK) in 1965, Damien Hirst lives and works in London and Devon. He has been a media topic for the last two decades since he has emerged from the British art scene in the 1990s.

In these days, Hirst is once again hitting the world headlines because of the separation from Maia Norman – the mother of his three children. She had started a relationship with Colonel Tim Spicer, a former soldier and mercenary now running a security firm, who was paid £22.5 million to suppress a rebellion in Papua New Guinea in 1997. Hirst declared to be devastated, but Mr. Spicer’s ex-wife, Caroline, replied he is looking for “bad publicity”. Miss Norman may be entitled to very little of Hirst’s £215 million fortune because the couple never married.

Side of the gossip, every little thing about Damien Hirst has been deeply scanned by media. Despite

Mother and child divided (details), 2007 © Londonartpress.com

of it, the reputation of Hirst has always been poor and low in respect. The opinion of ordinary people is that Hirst is very rich because he was able to cunningly manipulate the people and the market. It is odd, but he himself presents his public persona as artfully too.

Nowadays, many critics still debate if ‘this is art or not’. Tate Modern retrospective should finally draw a line about it. Damien Hirst is a real serious artist, maybe with difficulties to manage his commercial dark side. He is a ‘maudit artist’, an accursed artist so to say, neglected by contemporaries but worshipped by many and object of investment, even in this side representing our society.

Damien Hirst said: “We have been planning this show for so long I can’t believe it’s finally happening – I think I was avoiding looking back but now I’ve done it it’s exciting! It’s nearly twenty-five years of my life. There is something for everyone and I’m glad people will get the opportunity to see my work and judge for themselves.”

Sponsored by the Qatar Museums Authority, the exhibition provides a journey through two decades of Hirst’s inventive practice. It also forms part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.

“Damien Hirst” is curated by Ann Gallagher, Head of Collections (British Art), Tate, with Loren Hansi Momodu, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern and is coordinated by Sophie McKinlay, Project Manager, Tate Modern.

From 4th April until 9th September 2012.

At Tate Modern, Southbank, London.

Written by davidfranchi

June 20, 2012 at 11:19 am

Turner and inspiring Claude at the National Gallery.

“Turner and inspiring Claude at the National Gallery”

David Franchi – Thursday, 07th June 2012.

“…told the story behind Turner’s inspiration…”

The exhibition “Turner inspired: in the light of Claude” ended with great success of public, at the National Gallery.

It has been the spring exhibition of the National Gallery. “Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude” was the first major presentation of the influence the French painter Lorrain Claude have had on Turner.

The innovative importance of Turner in art is renowned. With his challenging free painting technique and far-reaching approach, he created a revolution in painting at the beginning of the 19th century. The inspiration for these prepossessing progresses was the 17th-century artist Claude.

“Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude” told the story behind Turner’s inspiration. The show reveals how Turner’s life-long desire to absorb all he could from the Old Master lay at the heart of his work. It seems the National Gallery exhibition wanted to demonstrate that Turner was taken up with Claude, but lest it is not news he was. In his day, Turner was even known as the “British Claude“. So this exhibition was a much promise that delivered a little less of what were the general assumptions.

For example, Turner on his death donated the National Gallery“Dido building Carthage” (1815) and

Sun rising through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling Fish, 1807, © The National Gallery, London

“Sun rising through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling Fish” (before 1807) on condition that they were hung between two paintings by Claude, which he named as “The Seaport” (Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, 1648) and “The Mill” (Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, 1648). However, at “Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude” all four pieces were displayed in room 15 of the gallery, and the tribute Turner paid to Claude was made very clear.

The National Gallery exhibition adopted a different point of view on the relationship by displaying photographs, letters and works that told the story behind the Turner Bequest – over 1000 paintings, drawings and watercolours Turner bequeathed in 1856 – and its importance in the history of the National Gallery.

There is no need to be said, the mastery of Turner in depicting views is astonishing and “Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude” displayed high valuable pieces – including the brilliant views of the Thames Valley inspired by the Roman Campagna and paintings of the emerging industrial landscape – in which the British painter recreated gleaming light and atmosphere.

Turner’s first experience of the work of Claude had an immediate and lasting impact on the artist. A contemporary remarked that, ‘Turner was awkward, agitated and burst into tears’ on seeing “Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba” (1648). He was captivated with Claude’s ability to depict light in landscape and praised his work as ‘pure as Italian air’.

Caernarvon Castle, 1799 © Private Collection/Harvey Wood/courtesy of the owner


The exhibition focuses on the major themes inspired by Claude that run through Turner’s career and that on occasion shocked and dazzled audiences of his day: the evocation of light and air in landscape; the effect of light upon water; and his often radical reworking of contemporary scenes. The importance of the sea to Britain’s identity is another crucial theme of Turner’s work and Claude’s harbour scenes exerted a powerful hold on his imagination.

“Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude” brings together a rich variety of media such as large majestic oils on canvas, mezzotints, etchings, watercolours and works in gouache, and displays of leaves from Turner’s pocket sketchbooks that show intimate drawings in pen, pencil and ink on paper, rarely on public display.

The National Gallery exhibition includes a selection of Turner’s most spectacular watercolours from the 1840s which depict the unique character of Venetian light.

Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude” unites works from Tate, The Holkham Estate and art galleries and museums around the United Kingdom including Glasgow Museums, Walker Art Gallery Liverpool and Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, as well as works from the United States. The exhibition has been organised in collaboration with Tate Britain. It has been conceived, and works have been selected, by Ian Warrell, Curator of 18th- and 19th-Century British Art at Tate Britain and Susan Foister, National Gallery curator.

From 14th March until 5th June 2012.

At the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London.

Written by davidfranchi

June 7, 2012 at 8:45 pm