Tag Archives: painting

1983 ➤ A turning point in David Hockney’s vision of the world


Hockney wielding his Pentax in London, July 10, 1983: having devoted two years to photography, in this his second week on a trip to Britain, a further new canvas in the studio confirms a return to painting. Photograph © by Shapersofthe80s

❚ 30 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK the British painter David Hockney made a discovery so monumental that he called it “a truer way of seeing”. I’d gone to interview him about the education cuts Margaret Thatcher was inflicting on British art schools and found myself receiving an exhilarating tutorial while the artist tested his new ideas.

“Have you been to the cubism exhibition at the Tate?” Hockney enthused during a trip to London from his home in Los Angeles. “I’ve been seven times! Suddenly I see cubism differently, more clearly… That’s what I’m only starting to grasp. Cubism is about another way of seeing the world, a truer way. But the moment you grasp it, you can’t give it up.”

Photography had preoccupied Hockney for the previous couple of years and in the week of his 46th birthday, we’d met at a Cork Street gallery during the hanging of his show New Work With A Camera, fresh from its Los Angeles run. Yet on two visits to his Kensington studio that week, fresh canvases on the easel signalled that Hockney had returned to painting. He said: “I had to deal with the ideas that are bubbling away. Cubism is hard enough to grasp, but it’s even harder to do, which actually is why not many people have been able to do anything with it. Starting to paint again is very refreshing.”

Four days later when the resulting interview appeared in the London Evening Standard, he’d been again to the Tate and said on the telephone: “Your article is pretty much the first time I have talked about this – of course I’ve discussed these things with friends but the article does make it clear to people.”


Hockney with fresh paintings in his London studio, July 3, 1983: so keen to deal with his new ideas, he reads aloud from a book about Marcel Proust’s theories of vision. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

He added: “You must go to the Tate retrospective [The Essential Cubism], it’s marvellous. You go from one cubist picture to another and another. In other galleries, like Moma, you might have one cubist room but go to the Tate show because you’ll never see so many cubist paintings together again. I found I began to develop this way of seeing them, it’s very rich. You do have to stand in front of the Picassos and spend time looking. When you’re physically in front of a cubist painting, once you start looking, especially the early analytical ones, it slowly reveals itself. It doesn’t pounce off the wall.”

The next day, when I returned to his studio with a camera, Hockney had begun yet another huge cubistic canvas which seriously took the breath away. It was a privilege to view the unfinished paintings with their images outlined in charcoal and he remarked that few people get to see inside the studio. I made sure to snap the 1,001 mementoes and influences scattered throughout the space suggestive of a restless imagination. The three substantial conversations I was fortunate to enjoy that week remain a turning point in my own appreciation of art. By a stroke of fate, my presence had provided the artist with a sounding board at the very moment when he urgently needed to kick around some bold new thoughts.

➢ Click through to read the full fascinating interview with Hockney, in an elision of two pieces first published in the Evening Standard, July 8, 1983, and The Face, Sept 1983

David Hockney,New Work With A Camera, photography, London, 1983

Fresh from its Los Angeles run: Invitation to Hockney’s latest show of three-dimensional photo collages in London, 1983


1972 ➤ Berger’s Ways of Seeing revolutionised the way we view art and is still an eye-opener today

Ways of Seeing, 1972: John Berger takes a knife to Botticelli’s Venus and Mars

➢ CLICK ON THE PIC to run the video of Ways of Seeing, part one

❚ 40 YEARS AGO AN ART CRITIC TOOK A STANLEY KNIFE to a Botticelli masterpiece in the National Gallery, and cut the head of Venus out from the canvas. (No, not the real painting, but a reproduction, obviously.) And what he held in his hand was the typical picture postcard by which many of us know this beautiful and all-conquering goddess. The critic and iconoclast John Berger was making a point that it is through reproductions that most of us view the world’s great art. He argued that paintings had been stripped of their context to raise money through sales of reproductions.

“With the invention of the camera, everything changed,” he said, meaning the ways our perceptions shifted. “The days of pilgrimage are over. It is the image of the painting which travels now. The meaning no longer resides in its unique painted surface which it’s only possible to see in one place and at one time. Its meaning has become transmittable. It comes to you, like the news of an event.”

This is how Berger launched Ways of Seeing on Jan 8, 1972 — four pioneering TV films which themselves were extended into a Penguin Modern Classic (set entirely in a heavy Univers font for a reason the author explains), and itself in turn is considered a seminal university-level text for current studies of visual culture and art history.

John Berger, Ways of Seeing , Penguin, books, TV seriesYesterday’s BBC radio strand Archive on 4 made exciting listening of judicious extracts. Titled The Politics of Art, it teased out Berger’s then revolutionary way of discussing paintings as commodities, under the themes of society and context, the nude, the power of money and advertising.

The historian Tim Marlow, currently director of exhibitions at White Cube, shows how Ways of Seeing was provocative and up-to-date in seeking out the opinions specifically of women and children. He believes the politics still matter. Berger challenged 600-year-old notions of ownership. “Previously art celebrated wealth and power: gods, princes and dynasties were worshipped… But the European oil painting served a different kind of wealth. It glorified not a static order of things, but the ability to buy, to furnish and to own.” In the late 20th century Berger subjects art to a Marxist critique that reminds us of the role of the makers. Being naked, he argues, is to be oneself. But a woman posing nude “is to be seen as an object”.

John Berger, Ways of Seeing, art, TV series

Berger’s phwoarr factor: charisma and intellect

Marlow asks how far the message of this series is pertinent again today. As a powerful corrective to glibness in much contemporary culture, The Politics of Art is well worth catching on the radio iPlayer, for Berger’s own bluff opinions, and those of several pundits, including the British novelist Marina Warner who is hooked on his phwoarr factor as well as his intellect: “Physically he was a powerful, beautiful man. And then his Mick Jagger-like charisma: he’s a thrilling performer. It’s a shame this kind of sexual magnetism is rarely seen now on TV — because it’s not permissible”!

There’s also a priceless sequence where the patrician connoisseur Lord Clark (of Civilisation, the earlier landmark TV survey of Western art) confesses to incomprehension before Picasso’s gigantic anti-war painting, Guernica, which invokes the aerial bombing of a Basque town during the Spanish civil war in 1937. Then Berger the passionate ideologue gives an assured deconstruction of the images of slaughter, its screaming civilians and symbols of freedom.

Now aged 85, Berger said recently of his TV series: “The programmes seem as urgent now as then. That’s because what’s happening in the world hasn’t changed very much — it’s only got more extreme. This political approach was prophetic about the world today.”

➢ John Berger video interview with Michael Silverblatt
in October 2002


2012 ➤ Hockney tops bigger paintings than ever with hi-tech moving photo-collages

David Hockney, Bigger Picture, Yorkshire, landscapes,art, Royal Academy, exhibition, Arrival of Spring in Woldgate,reviews

British artist David Hockney posing yesterday at the Royal Academy of Arts in London with his painting The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011. Photograph by Luke MacGregor, Reuters

➢ Hockney’s high-tech pictures open eyes at Royal Academy — by Martin Gayford, chief art critic for Bloomberg News, Jan 16…

The Royal Academy of Arts in London has never been host to an exhibition quite like David Hockney’s A Bigger Picture. The academy has a history dating to 1768. The one-man show, which runs from Jan 21 to April 9, is a tour de force. It consists almost entirely of new work, using both low-tech media such as painting and the latest high-tech tools. Hockney approaches the time-honored subject of nature in a fresh, contemporary way. The result is spectacular.

Hockney has also come up with a more hi-tech kind of picture created by multiple, high-definition cameras set at slightly different angles. The result is a moving photo-collage: a bigger picture because it sees more, from varying points of view. Most of the films on show are landscapes, though the most recent is a dance spectacular, shot on 18 cameras in Hockney’s studio. It gives a wonderful festive finale to the exhibition, in which Hockney paints the stage in sumptuous color, and shoots the action like a combination of Pablo Picasso and Busby Berkeley … / continued online

➢ Blue-sky painting, by Jackie Wullschlager,
in the Financial Times, Jan 13

[Hockney] is commanding new technologies in a countercultural quest to prove that painting, in an age dominated by conceptualism and installation, can be as theatrical and monumental as any 21st-century spectacle.

Winter Timber 2009, David Hockney, Royal Academy, Bigger Picture, reviews,art,

“Stump and logs as reminders of mortality ... Hockney has transformed a humdrum wintry scene into a gateway to the afterlife” — David Hockney, detail from Winter Timber, 2009. Oil on 15 canvases. (Private Collection. © David Hockney. Photo credit: Jonathan Wilkinson)

➢ Whatever game David Hockney is playing eludes me,
says Alastair Sooke in The Daily Telegraph

Hockney is best known as the raunchy Californian sensualist who painted sun-kissed boys gliding through the azure swimming pools of Los Angeles in the Sixties. And yet here he presents himself as a modest pastoralist, content to hymn the bounty of nature with quiet exultation – dancing, like Wordsworth, among the daffodils. Once inspired by distant destinations such as Egypt, China and America’s West Coast, he now seems happy pottering about a neglected nook of England. The prodigal son has returned to within 65 miles of Bradford, where he was born in 1937, and settled down. The internationalist has turned parochial. The radical has come over all conservative … Perhaps it’s a generational thing, but I don’t understand paintings like these. Fresh, bright and perfectly delightful, they are much too polite and unthinkingly happy for my taste: if they offer a vision of arcadia, it is a mindless one… / continued online

HOCKNEY REVEALS A ‘new vision of the world’

David Hockney, London, 1983, Roger Shattuck,painting, interview, cubism, Proust

Hockney at his London studio, July 3, 1983: after a pause of two years, new canvases indicate the urgency with which he has resumed painting. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

❚ WHILE IN LONDON FOR A FORTNIGHT in 1983 David Hockney says that he has resumed painting after a two-year break pursuing photography. The freshly primed canvases in his London studio testify to the urgency with which he wants “to deal with the ideas that are bubbling away”. He lobs in a shocker: “I’ve looked at some cubist paintings for 25 years without understanding them. Suddenly I see cubism differently, more clearly. And my experiments have led me to a couple of theories of my own . . .”

➢ Only at Shapersofthe80s, exclusive photographs and long, fascinating interview from 1983 at the time of his
London show, New Work With A Camera

➤ Festive greetings to the newest most northerly reader of Shapersofthe80s

painting,location, Norway, art, Peder Balke,Hammerfest, Finnmark,webcam

Fra Hammerfest (From Hammerfest), 1851: painting by the Norwegian artist Peder Balke

❚ YESTERDAY A NEW RECORD WAS SET for the northernmost visitor to Shapersofthe80s who lives in Hammerfest in Norway with the coordinates of latitude and longitude 70°39′N, 23°40′E, as logged for us by Revolver Maps. The municipality is fractionally more northerly than Tromsø in Norway which has held the record for many months at 69°41′N. Hammerfest is an important tourist destination in Finnmark, which is a county in the extreme northeast of Norway, bordered by Troms county to the west, Finland (Lapland) to the south and Russia (Murmansk Oblast) to the east. Hammerfest is experiencing an economic boom from the exploitation of natural gas.

And the latest weather forecast for Hammerfest predicts strong breezes and rain during the Christmas holiday, although webcams show plenty of snow on the ground in the neighbouring region of Vasskogen.

Our southernmost visitors live at Río Grande, the industrial capital of the Tierra del Fuego province in Argentina (53°47′S, 67°42′W), where Motorola manufactures up to 90 per cent of its mobile phones. This is only a smidgeon further south than another reader in Punta Arenas, the capital city of Chile’s southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena.

♫ Visit Soundcloud to hear DaNii — Personal Trance Session (18-11-011) by Carlos Daniel of Rio Grande, Argentina

Rio Grande, Argentina,Tierra del Fuego

Our southernmost reader outpost: city of Rio Grande, in the South Atlantic province of Tierra del Fuego


1922–2011 ➤ Richard Hamilton: second thoughts about his definition of Pop Art

Swingeing London 67,Richard Hamilton,  Tate,Robert Fraser  ,Mick Jagger

Swingeing London, a great modern history painting from the Swinging 60s: in the back of a police car on their way to court Hamilton’s art dealer Robert Fraser and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger sit shielding their faces against the media glare. The image is based on a press photograph published in the Daily Sketch and the title is deliberately spelt with an E, referring to the judge’s pronouncement on the “swingeing sentence” he handed down as a deterrent after both were convicted on drugs charges. For many, this occasion typified the moral backlash against the liberalisation of the 1960s. (Above, detail from Swingeing London 67 (f) 1968-69, acrylic, collage and aluminium on canvas © Richard Hamilton, in the Tate collection)

❚ “ RICHARD HAMILTON, the most influential British artist of the 20th century, has died aged 89. In his long, productive life he created the most important and enduring works of any British modern painter… Hamilton has a serious claim to be the inventor of pop art… Driven by intellect and political belief, Hamilton created undying icons of the modern world.”
➢ Read Jonathan Jones at The Guardian online


“ Pop Art is:
Popular (designed for a mass audience)
Transient (short-term solution)
Expendable (easily forgotten)
Low cost
Mass produced
Young (aimed at youth)
Big Business ”

❏ His definition appeared as part of a long rumination on post-war art in a letter to Peter and Alison Smithson, published online at Warholstars.org, but taken from The Collected Words 1953–1982 by Richard Hamilton (Thames & Hudson 1982)


➢ John Tusa interviewed Hamilton for Radio 3 — Listen and read the transcript at the BBC website

Richard Hamilton, pop art , painter, John Tusa, interview

Hamilton: a lesson learnt from Warhol

TUSA:“Your definition hasn’t, as you said, stood the test of time because pop art as we now know it and as it became, has ended up being anything but transient, expendable and commercial. It’s been in a way co-opted by the systems and the commercialism of the fine-art world itself.”

HAMILTON: “When I made that list I thought what are the characteristics of what we call pop art, and then I listed them, big business and so on; the record system, Hollywood and all the other things. Then I looked at this list that I had made, which had nothing to do with fine art or anything that I was painting or doing and said, is there anything in this list which is incompatible with fine art? And my answer was no, except for one thing and I said, Expendable. Now, is fine art expendable? And I thought, no; I can’t quite stomach that. Everything else, OK, but expendability as a throwaway attitude is not something that can be acceptable as pop art, and I was proved wrong. Warhol approached art from the point of view of expendability, so I admire him enormously for having brought my attention to the fact that I was wrong.”


❏ Hamilton’s Swingeing London series of paintings and prints were his response to the arrest of his art dealer Robert Fraser and his imprisonment for the possession of heroin. This followed the now fabled police raid on a party at the Sussex farmhouse of Keith Richards, of the rock group the Rolling Stones, in February 1967. There they found evidence of the consumption of various drugs and in June, Fraser and Mick Jagger (the band’s lead singer) were found guilty of the possession of illegal drugs. This gave rise to the sarcastic newspaper headline “A strong sweet smell of incense” which Hamilton incorporated into a huge collage of the resulting newspaper cuttings which he titled Swingeing London 67 — Poster.
➢ Read Keith Richards’ account of this raid and the truth about the infamous Mars bar

❏ Video above: This Is Tomorrow (1992), clip from a C4 television documentary by Mark James in which the Father of Pop Art Richard Hamilton talks about his time as a tutor to pop star Bryan Ferry at Newcastle University art school