With Amsterdam just a stone’s throw away from his native England, there’s no way David Hockney didn’t take weekend trips to gather a little inspiration. With his landscapes breathing and ever-so-subtly undulating, Hockney has, in his art work, rather astutely recreated the kind of mushroom trip that the majority of festival-goers revel in: a magical connection with those insanely charming and huggable trees.
Seemingly familiar, the works trick the viewer into recalling memories of frolics in the woods (both authentic and false memories), the works play on vivid colour, scale and distance, and leading lines to push our psyches into the surreal. Reminiscent of A Scanner Darkly the line between real and animation is blurred, but with Hockney, it all seems like a happy and welcoming dream where everything works in gentle harmony. In Hockney’s world you’re exactly where you’re meant to be… So glad he didn’t foray into painting the other kind of mushroom trip.
Somehow Hockney imbued his nature images with almost unconscious movement. The images warp and bounce back to their form and your imagination makes you a giddy little kid again, examining a rock for an hour or trying to figure out what bark is made out of. Roads snake away into the sunset and branches extend out towards the viewer like welcoming arms. And with leaves and grass waving just slightly in the corner of your eye, the pictures seems to be alive, luring you in and making you feel as if you’ve always been part of it. In the good sense, not the creepy The Shining kind of way.
He might be a Pop Art legend, rubbin’ elbows and whatnot with Andy Warhol, but a peak at Hockney’s landscape works show a great influence from masters of both Expressionism as well as Impressionism. A mix of Van Gogh’s swirling lines and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s manipulation of colour combine to gently thrust us down the rabbit hole, and we’re all sorts of ok with that. Hockney paints the kinds of trips that cause ego-death and revelation and make you cast off the shackles of your crappy relationship with Ricky or Courtney to follow your dream of kulning with the Samis. The vibrancy and hues of his colours just border on the norm but take that one step past in order to go into another dimension of reality. With the uncouth purples and greens dancing off of the sharp but flowing movements of his lines, his technique is a psilocybic sensation to warm the cockles of your heart.
Visit the David Hockney RA; 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts 2 July- 2 October to see his style applied to human subjects.
Text by Alice Bauer
Cover image: May Blossom on the Roman Road. 2009. Oil on Canvas. Private Collection.