The joy of learning: Hockney at Tate Britain (London)

David Hockney uses art as a mean for exsploring identities, languages, spaces, places, techniques and his own surroundings.  His exhibitoin “60 years of work” at Tate Britain is a journey into his endless curioisty, his wonder  about the world. A lesson in life!

David Hockney’s “60 years of work” exhibition at Tate Britain is a journey into his imagination, his wonder and his love for learning. It is also a dive into azure swimming pools, blue skies and extensive landscapes, where emotions, realisations and troubles find their way into colour. Hockney is without a doubt the greatest painter alive! But what makes him even greatest is his way of living life: his universality from grey Bradford to sunny California, his relevance: from swinging London to the celebration of seasons, all through his commitment to “look” and “learn” about the world around him.

Digial Paintings. Brushes App. Copyright. Beatriz Acevedo

This curiosity and wonder is something we also talked with my dear Friend Sam Warren, as we worried about young people plugged into devices replacing their amazement at the real world. It is all Black Mirror in the sense of a pervasive digital world, where pixels replace emotions, and emotions are controlled by the Big Data machines anticipating our desires.  But the thing is not to reject technology for its sake, but to use it to make us better, to educate ourselves and to enjoy. Learning is joyful, hedonistic, pleaasurable activity… but sometimes education takes the fun from it all, making it a chore, a repetitive activity separated from reality!  But the joy of learning is precisely what this exhibition excells at: it is a journey of experimentation and discoveries, it is about research and appliacation, it is about reflection and playfulness. Although it has a chronological structure, in truth the exhibition presents the artist’s many “explorations”… exploration of sexuality, exploration of spaces, explorations of places, exploration oftetechnologies (canvas, collage, abstractionism), also photography, ipads, videos, theatre and fashion.

Digial Paintings. Brushes App. Copyright. Beatriz Acevedo

What I loved about Hockney is his thirst for knowing. He investigates the old masters, the learn the secrets of the camera obscura. He admires Picasso and develops a cubist language in his own terms. He experiments with different languages and trends: abstractionism, cubism, modernism, while developing his own sense of colour.

When he visits the USA he is fascinated by the landscape and the artificiality of the Californian culture, figures posted in scenarios, and here he brings Piero della Francesca Annunciation as a clever visual device where actors are well positioned within pastel backgrounds.

Digial Paintings. Brushes App. Copyright. Beatriz Acevedo

The exhibition includes, of course,  the swimming pools…  the pleasure of sunbathing in that ever blue sky. All of that brought memories of my own Caliwood, the days spent by the pool, the visual nature of water and reflection, and the sheer pleasure of hanging around by the blue water surrounded of blue mountains and palm trees.  But this is not all escapism… on the opposite, Hockney takes also emotions and relationships as the real topic of such evasive waters.

Digial Paintings. Brushes App. Copyright. Beatriz Acevedo

Also the portraits: positioned as in a theatre, a scenario… I was particularly moved by the portrait of that couple of men in a 20 years old relationship, and the impact that such stability could have had on the young Hockney. Here, the painter used the symbolism of the white lilly, a central yet delicate aspect of Pierro de la Francesca Annunciation, perhaps a symbol of purity, of miracles, and the possibility of “heaven is a place on earth” like the song! Which also reminds me of the fantastic episode of Black Mirror, San Junipero, my new discovered series (I know it is old news, but new for me!)


And in all of these 60 years of work, the artist is always searching and learning: How to master photography when he got enough of painting, and later, how he discovered chinese rolls and start the series of huge paintings of interiors using a distorted perspective, in order to create a story. Further, his experiments with the iPad and the program Brushes, which I have used for a while too, but never to the effects and heights that he’s gotten to.  And despite all these achivements he remains humble and generous, active and full of life, and I wonder if his secret is this quest for knowing and learning? I believe that this insaciable curiosity and wonder at the world, this capacity to see not only with his  eyes, but with his heart and his hand… as he had explained so many times, is what keeps him relevant and magnificent.

While Vanessa Bell approaches art as part of her daily domestic life, Hockney uses art for exploration and enquiry. Both are amazing colourists, groundbreakers, and inspiring artists!





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