We went to see David Hockney‘s latest show ‘A Bigger Picture’ at Royal Academy of Arts on a cold day in mid-winter. It has been a while since I last went to the countryside as it just seems to be dull and cold most of the time.


‘Woldgate Woods, 21, 23 & 29 November 2006′, 2006. Oil on 6 canvases. 182 x 366 cm. © David Hockney. Photo credit: Richard Schmidt, from RCA website.

This show has been widely anticipated and was said to be likely to be as popular as the National Gallery’s exhibition for Leonardo De Vinci. How was it?

It is stunning!

The theme of the exhibition is landscape, mainly in Yorkshire where the artist has been living since his return from America. To fully appreciate his work in the show, I highly recommend booking for an early morning session as it could be difficult to stand back and see the large landscapes when the room is full of people (which was the case by the time we left). I also recommend getting an audio guide, which can be hired from the entrance for £3.50.

The exhibition has a pre-planned route which takes visitors through Hockney’s journey in developing his interests and techniques of depicting landscapes. It was fascinating to experience seasonal changes in nature through his eyes. I could not help but feel impressed by how disciplined he has been to create paintings at the same spot at different times of the year. His passion for nature is immense.

I was particularly curious about his interest in generating more than one perspective in the same piece of work. He noted in the audio guide that he was inspired by Chinese painting on scrolls, in which stories often unfold with the rolling of the scroll, allowing the viewer to move through the landscape, rather than simply observing it from a fixed point. His photo collage of a road trip in USA certainly depicts the views of the driver and passenger together successfully. As a viewer, I could choose to explore in many ways. Interesting.

The spirit of forming a big picture by putting smaller pieces together is strong throughout the whole exhibition. Not only could we see it through photo collages, but also through gigantic paintings which are created in the form of a grid of canvases. But the most impressive pieces are the video collages, which are presented as a grid of 18 high-definition TVs.

Hockney and his team mounted 9 high-definition SLRs on a car, in the form of a 3×3 grid, which allowed Hockney to ‘paint’ by slowly directing the car’s movements. They visited the same spot at different times of the year and presented the same journeys through 2 sets of 3×3 HDTVs right next to each other. Each TV shows a video, which represents a fragment of the landscape in a slightly different perspective. Together, all the 9 videos ‘drew’ the landscape. It was Hockney’s first attempt to create video art and it was very impressive to see how he managed to master this media to produce a moving collage, equally as successfully as his photo collages and paints. Truely original.

Another video collage used all the 18 TVs to show the a series of dance performances. It was fun and burst with vibrant colours. Some of the video appeared like a still life at times. The piece ended with a toast from the whole team, the whole room of visitors cheered. We loved the video collages so much that we watched them 3 times!

David Hockney created an installation specially for the RCA show. It was a series of printed landscape drawings created by iPad which he first started using in 2008. It was fascinating to see how well he mastered the technology to create work that appears to be a natural evolution of his work. For an artist who has a 50 year-long painting career, this just shows he is a true master!

This is definitely a show that you cannot afford to miss- who knows what he will do next!

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