Embracing the technology once again, 85-year-old David Hockney brings us an immersive experience in the form of a gigantic projection and atmospheric, audio display – “Bigger and Closer (not smaller and further away)”
Walking into the bowels of the Light Room at Kings Cross, we heard Hockney’s familiar, soft voice – my fears of a gimmicky exhibition from one of my most admired artists gradually being dispelled.
I felt safe in David’s hands, immediately highlighting the main difference between this and other similar immersive exhibitions, the like of Van Gogh, Klimt and Frida Kahlo – Hockney is still alive and at the wheel, (at one point quite literally, in his car driving through the mountains describing how the Wagner score he was listening to at the time, came to life in his painting of the same encouraging us to “see the music”).
On entering the Light Room, we spent a few moments, looking down over the expansive room, its viewers ( young and mature) sitting, lying, standing – the images of David’s work underfoot and all around. We then moved into the heart of the room and took up a different position finding ourselves sitting in one of his iconic swimming pool paintings – his signature squiggly marks depicting the water dancing around us.
The 50 minutes of Hockney’s commentary and film took us on a journey through his interest in ipads and cameras; his fascination with perspective and how it translates into his work. It’s divided into various chapters of his life, including his move to LA; his surreal Opera stage designs; his Cubist Polaroid collages, and his digital sketches – “I recorded this so you are literally watching me paint here”, Hockney says. My favourite section is a wall of his many sketch books, with his ageing hand turning over the pages of his beautiful preparatory paintings. “My job, I think, is to make pictures”.
A shared interest of mixing collage with paint and a love of vibrant colour is what drew me to the exhibition. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. By the end, my lingering doubts about a novelty act were gone. I felt impressed by the level of skill, tenacity and thoughtful reflections.
Critics such as Jonathon Jones may complain that there “is not a single real work by him here to catch your memory and hold on to your soul. Without real art, this entertainment goes the same way as all the other immersive exhibitions of art icons: into the wieightless, passionless dustbin of forgetting”. However on looking around, I didn’t see people who would forget this experience. I saw emotion – joy, amazement, happiness. And movement – people contorting their bodies, to see what they were missing behind them.
Isn’t this what David is asking from his work – for it’s viewers to look more closely and to see a different perspective – in nature, in life, in people? And after all, he is no stranger to an immersive experience. He demonstrated this in a previous more traditional exhibition called ” A Bigger Picture” 2012, where gargantuan panels filled the entire walls and were created specifically for the Royal Acadamey of the Arts Gallery, curated by Edith Devaney.
Yes, it’s true what Jones says. There is nothing better than observing original works and seeing the artists expression through brush strokes and marks. However, a modern IT take can present a different view point and have value for sparking wonder and interest in a more diverse audience.
If you go to the exhibtion I’d love to know your thoughts and about your favourite bits – or the bits you didn’t like! Get in touch.
Meanwhile you can read more about this exhibition, and book tickets, at https://lightroom.uk/whats-on/david-hockney/