Archive for the ‘hockney’ Tag

Artistic Devices: Hockney in London 2017

I was working at Chelsea School of Art in Pimlico recently and took the opportunity, after a meeting about a prospective TV programme, to nick into Tate Britain which is directly opposite and see the David Hockney exhibition.

To mark the occasion of this major retrospective, entertaining if a little rammed, I’d like to dig out my Hockney Picture of the Month, Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices, which is in the show of course.

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices - David Hockney

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices (1965)

And to add an extra something to celebrate the exhibition I’d like to highlight some other artistic devices in evidence in this show. For the significance of ‘artistic devices’ I’ll quote from my earlier post:

The person portrayed is partly obscured by a pile of (obviously painted) cylinders. Above his head is a shelf on which are a selection of large brushstrokes. The cylinders are crude 3D representations, obvious devices or techniques, which stand out as abstract in a still figurative world of suits and rugs and shelves. The shelf is just a 2D line. The strokes on the shelf are more flat, abstract components of painting, exposing the technique and undermining the illusion. The pile of cylinders is actually painted on a sheet of paper glued to the canvas to leave the viewer in no doubt as to the artifice, physical materiality and flatness of the endeavour.

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Sunbather (1964) – water devices (although it’s complicated – Hockney had painted lines on his pool floor)

A Bigger Splash 1967 by David Hockney

A Bigger Splash (1967) – plant devices & more water devices

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Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) – glass devices

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970-1 by David Hockney born 1937

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-1) – carpet devices

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Marilynne Marilyn – Picture of the Month: The Only Blonde in the World by Pauline Boty (1963)

The Only Blonde in the World 1963 by Pauline Boty 1938-1966

The Only Blonde in the World (1963) by Pauline Boty 1938-1966

My mum is called Marilynne Marilyn. Not a lot of people know that. My grandfather couldn’t spell the name, got it wrong on the birth certificate, wasn’t allowed to cross it out, so had to have a second go. Marilynne Marilyn is a blonde.

Today I have been reading about Mandy Rice-Davies of Profumo Affair notoriety. Another blonde in the world. Her real first name was actually Marilyn. Not a lot of people know that.

Marilyn Monroe, as the biggest star in the world and the epitome of late 50s female sexuality (at least as far as men were concerned), was a popular subject for Pop artists on both sides of the water.

Marilyn Diptych 1962 by Andy Warhol 1928-1987

Marilyn Diptych (1962) by Andy Warhol 1928-1987

Monroe died (or was hounded to her death, as Boty might say – she considered Marilyn “betrayed”)  in August 1962 from an overdose of barbiturates. Warhol spent the rest of ’62 creating images of her, all derived from a publicity photo for Niagara (1953). The right-hand half of the diptych speaks of fading and mortality.

Monroe died at just 36. Boty only made it to 28.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) by Peter Blake

Marilyn features on the centre line of one of the most famous of all Pop images, the one that was actually just a millimetre or two from the pop itself (in the form of black vinyl). She’s just above Ringo and Johnny Weissmuller, swamped in a sea of men.

‘Randy Mandy’ wrote of her bubbly blonde public image: “Every man’s sexual fantasy – it’s a curious role to play in life. I meet men who were schoolboys when my picture was front page news and they greet me as a figment of an erotic dream. There is nothing I can do about this, it has nothing to do with the real me. That Mandy is a pert blonde who is all things to all men. Perhaps that is her secret – she never disappoints.”

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Marilyn aka Mandy exiting the infamous trial of Stephen Ward (1963)

The big David Hockney exhibition opens at Tate Britain in a few hours, a retrospective of 60 years of painting. The Hockney generation at the Royal College of Art (at which I’ve been privileged to be working recently, under Neville Brody, Dean of the School of Communication) lusted to a man (bar presumably Hockney himself) after Boty who was every inch the attractive blonde.

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Pauline Boty

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in BBC Monitor ‘Pop Goes the Easel’ directed by Ken Russell

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1963 emulating Hockney’s muse

The blonde in Boty’s painting is far from the only one in the world. The title is ironic. It’s Marilyn. It’s Pauline. It’s Mandy. It’s Diana. It’s any number of fantasy blondes.

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Michael Winner directs Diana Dors (28th January 1963)

In ‘The Only Blonde in the World’ Marilyn is contained within a flat, abstract space – both the left and right green panels are higher than Marilyn’s panel. The designs of that space have echoes of Sonia Delaunay’s Orphism which was shown in London around this time.

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Sonia Delaunay 1942

The 2D green abstract panels slide open to reveal a glimpse of a ‘3D’ space in which Marilyn positively buzzes with energy. Her famous legs are descendants of Marcel Duchamp’s celebrated Nu descendant un escalier n° 2 (1912).

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Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (1912) by Marcel Duchamp

I’m not sure where Boty’s Marilyn image is drawn from. Some critics and commentators say Some Like It Hot but I can’t find any such image – I think it may be from the premiere of The Seven Year Itch. It doesn’t really matter where exactly it came from, the point is I’m pretty sure there will be a specific photo out there that she used as a source, one in a magazine, to align with the popular culture focus of British and American Pop Art.

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Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio at the premiere of ‘The Seven Year Itch’ (1955)

The vibrating energy of Boty’s Marilyn reflects her genuine admiration of Monroe as a woman mythologised through pop culture. The grey background, which links out to the lines and swirls of the abstract framing image, picks white Marilyn out like a spotlight at a Hollywood premiere. She’s a flash of white brilliance as she crosses the gap. The journey between the two green panels is short but Marilyn still steals the show, as she did in her tragically short life.

Little did Boty know but her own would also be cut tragically short. They found cancer when she went for the first scan of her first child. The brevity of her life has left her to a large extent written out of British art history. ‘The Only Blonde in the World’ is the only Boty in the Tate. Otherwise the only British public gallery holding a Boty is Wolverhampton Art Gallery. The bulk of her paintings languished for many years in a barn. She was an exact contemporary of Hockney (born the year after him). She went to the Big Studio in the sky just three years after capturing’The Only Blonde in the World’. Had she lived and had time to evolve I wonder whether it might have been her massive retrospective opening at Tate Britain tomorrow…

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Celia Birtwell and some of her heroes (1963) by Pauline Boty 1938 – 1966

(That’s a young Hockney bottom right having a smoke.)

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Celia Birtwell by David Hockney

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Hockney in his Notting Hill flat with his friend and muse, textile designer Celia Birtwell (1969)

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Birtwell with Hockney in front of his ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ (2006)

(Birtwell was married to fashion designer Ossie Clark)

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Hockney with Birtwell in ‘A Bigger Splash’, directed by my first boss, Jack Hazan (1973)

Related posts:

The last Picture of Month – also touching on the Profumo Affair

An earlier Picture of the Month featuring a young Hockney at the RCA

A recent Profumo walk related to Mandy aka Marilyn Rice-Davies

Pictures of the Month

Autorretrato con Chango y Loro (Self-portrait with Monkey and Parrot) – Frida Kahlo

frida kahlo painting artist painter

Skrik (Scream) – Edvard Munck

munch skrik

Joie de Vivre – Picasso

Joie de Vivre - Picasso (1946)

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices – David Hockney

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices (1965)

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices (1965)

Merry-Go-Round – Mark Gertler

Merry-Go-Round by Mark Gertler

Merry-Go-Round by Mark Gertler (1916)

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère – Edouard Manet

Un bar aux Folies Bergère

Un bar aux Folies Bergère – Edouard Manet

Picture of the Month – Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices (1965)

Exactly a week on from the Oscars triumph of the very English ‘A King’s Speech’, I’ve just been re-watching Colin Firth’s first on-screen stammering in Pat O’Connor’s ‘A Month in the Country‘ (1987) and reveling in the bucolic portrayal of deepest Yorkshire, also a reflection on the art and craft of painting, so my choice this time out is a painting by one of Yorkshire’s greatest sons, David Hockney, and the theme of Hollywood runs through this.

My first job out of college was for film production company Buzzy Enterprises. One of my bosses there was Roger Deakins, pipped to the post last week for the Best Cinematography Oscar by Wally Pfister (for ‘Inception’), Roger’s work on the Coen Bothers’ ‘True Grit’ recently earned him the BAFTA. One of Roger’s partners was Jack Hazan, director of the landmark British cinema verite film ‘A Bigger Splash‘ (1973) featuring Hockney and his circle, including fashion designer Ossie Clark; his wife, textile designer Celia Birtwell; Peter Schlesinger and Henry Geldzahler. The latest user-generated review of it on IMDB is none too flattering but brings me nicely to my picture, Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices (1965). This is what Jaroslaw99 of Michigan makes of the film: “Why was the naked swimmer pressed up to the “window” while two others ate dinner, obvlious? Sometimes I think just because the “critics” or “art aficionadoes” can’t understand art or film, they think it is “deep”. That is what I think of David Hockney (the art was mostly one dimensional like grade school children’s) and the same for this film.”

Portrait Surrounded is very much about dimensions (two and three), representation in art and the border between figurative and abstract painting.

The two things I always liked about Hockney is his profound respect for Picasso (in common with Birtwell whose prints were strongly influenced by Picasso and Matisse) and his cheeky sense of humour. I rank Picasso with Bacon as the two greatest artists of the last century. In this painting the use of the phrase “artistic devices” and their very literal depiction in the painting typify Hockney’s playfulness and deflation of the stuff of “critics or art aficionadoes”.

The person portrayed is partly obscured by a pile of (obviously painted) cylinders. Above his head is a shelf on which are a selection of large brushstrokes. The cylinders are crude 3D representations, obvious devices or techniques, which stand out as abstract in a still figurative world of suits and rugs and shelves. The shelf is just a 2D line. The strokes on the shelf are more flat, abstract components of painting, exposing the technique and undermining the illusion. The pile of cylinders is actually painted on a sheet of paper glued to the canvas to leave the viewer in no doubt as to the artifice, physical materiality and flatness of the endeavour.

Cezanne, one of the fathers of Modernist painting, was keen on the simplification of natural forms into their geometric basics – to “treat nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone” (letter to Emile Bernard 1904). Portrait Surrounded is part of Hockney’s on-going questioning of the received wisdom of Modernist painting in the wake of his spell at the Royal College of Art (with the likes of RB Kitaj) and his struggle to find the right balance between abstraction and figurative art.

The person portrayed in this picture is Hockney’s father and the artist is playing out a battle in it between the technical demands of representing the three dimensions of the physical world and the desire to capture the greater depths of emotion and sentiment, like the feelings one has for one’s parents. In his autobiography Hockney wrote: “the thing Cezanne says about the figure being just a cone, a cylinder and a sphere: well it isn’t. His remark meant something at the time, but we know a figure is really more than that, and more will be read into it… You cannot escape the sentimental – in the best sense of the term – feelings and associations from the figure, from the picture, it’s inescapable. Because Cezanne’s remark is famous – it was thought of as a key attitude in modern art – you’ve got to face it and answer it. My answer, of course, is the remark is not true.”

His observation is typical of the cycle of revolts and reactions of art (as well of teenagehood) – I believe Cezanne was actually referring to landscape not figures so Hockney is actually refuting something created through the Chinese whispers of art education. But that doesn’t really matter, it helps him ‘face and answer’ a key issue for his practice.

In the summer of 1960 the Tate held a large exhibition of Picasso’s work which Hockney visited over half a dozen times and recalls as “a very liberating influence”. He found in it permission for the painter to experiment and move through styles in his artistic journey. Earlier that spring he had visited a one-man Bacon show at London’s Marlborough Gallery.  In that he saw a strong stand against pure abstraction whilst retaining an emphasis on directly affecting the guts and nervous system through paint. Bacon’s devices like leaving bare large expanses of canvas to literally expose the workings of painting soon became incorporated in Hockney’s work. His pure abstracts of 1959 (the year he entered the RCA as a post-grad) gave way to the combination of abstract and figurative, and the revealing of the techniques and devices of painting to make clear that painting is not a description of the world perceived through the senses but an interpretation and expression of it in all its complexity, not least of the messiness of emotion. Partly obscured behind the pile of cylinders and partly flattened by his collagey suit, the point of depth of this picture is in the father’s flesh, his Baconesque hands and more still his face and eyes – in fact the two dark points of his eyes, the two one dimensional parts of the painting are the deepest (so Jaroslaw99 of Michigan and I can agree for a moment on the single point of one dimensionality).

In the 3D world I’ve only crossed paths with Hockney fleetingly – both times when reviewing exhibitions in the early 90s, once at the site of that influential Picasso show and the other time round the corner from the Marlborough at the Royal Academy (1995). He projected an attractive combination of Yorkshire homeliness and Californian glamour.

He moved to California the year I was born and in 1965, just after Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices, he made a set of lithographs entitled ‘A Hollywood Collection’. Conceived of as ‘an instant art collection’ for a Hollywood starlet, it includes prints like ‘Picture of a Pointless Abstraction Framed Under Glass’ for which he draws not only the pointless abstraction but the frame and even the reflections on the glass, more playing around with artistic devices in the quest for that sweet spot between the abstract and the figurative where deep feeling and insight reside.

David Hockney (2007) with portrait of his father in the background (My Parents 1977)

Picture of a Pointless Abstraction Framed Under Glass

Picture of a Pointless Abstraction Framed Under Glass (1965)

Previous pictures of the month: Mark Gertler / Manet

50 people who buggered up Britain (and 25 who saved it)

A free hairstyle

A free hairstyle

An up-tight hairdo

An up-tight hairdo

Having given the Daily Mail a hard time recently with my Fear & Death analysis of its content and my highlighting how at odds it was with its own readership over The Sex Education Show / Sexperience, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the rotten rag in the form of its political sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts and his new book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. I haven’t actually read it but I have read a review which got me thinking about my own list – I’ve only just started really and could definitely use some help so feel free to join in. The timeframe is the last 5 decades. I thought I’d also counter Mail miserableness by adding a list of 20 inspirational figures in Britain from those same 50 years who helped counter-balance the malign influences. I’m hoping to have the full 50 (+ 20) in place by the New Year so do chuck some ideas into the pot… [names added post 2008 have the date added in square brackets]

Buggered up Britain:

1 Ashley Cole – stands out as the most unpleasant character in the Premiership and that’s no easy feat

2 Rupert Murdoch – brought vulgar anti-culture and arrogant anti-democracy to the country in equal measure – I vowed many years ago to throw a big party the day he shuffles off his awful coil and you’re all invited

3 Viscount Rothermere, co-founder of the Daily Mail which published his editorial on 15th January 1934 entitled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’

4 Ian Paisley – spent his whole toxic life saying No!

5 Doctor Richard Beeching – killed our (relatively green) railways

6 Lord MacAlpine – the Tory treasurer whose family’s firm vandalised Battersea Powerstation, ripped its roof off in the service of…

7 Margaret Thatcher – brought so much misery into Britain in such a short time – I’ll leave this one to Elvis Costello:

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips?

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal.

Notice the link to MacAlpine via Tarmacadam. Notice the link to Murdoch via lively celebrations of the passing of a big bugger.

8 Simon Cowell – for spreading the corrosive myth of instant fame

9 Oswald Mosley – married to one of the Mitford whores in Goebbel’s drawing room with Hitler present as one of only 6 guests – nuff said (do we detect a residual anger in my tone? give me another 50 years and I may start getting over the Nazis …but I doubt it)

10 Stock Aitken Waterman – for devaluing music, torturing us with the likes of Rick Astley and Jason Donovan

11 Howard Shipman – undermined trust in GPs and the NHS in a rather extravagant way

12 The Queen Mother – epitomised how anachronistic royalty and aristocracy are, and how unhealthy reverence of royalty can be. [This choice inspired by Adam D’s suggestion – House of Windsor]

13 Michael Gove – for not understanding the modern world and setting UK education back years when it was already well behind the curve [2016]

14 Victoria Beckham – “She succeeded in her desire to be ’more famous than Persil Automatic’ and is as about as interesting as a box of it. I think she has created such a one-dimensional aspiration for the young. Success can now be measured by vacuity and the meaningless.” [Practical Psychologist] Her husband by contrast captures some positive values such as leadership, commitment to a passion/skill-set and rehabilitation.

15 Reggie & Ronnie Kray – for the misguided hero-worship they have subsequently inspired and inspiring Guy Richie innit [courtesy of Practical Psychologist]

16 Steve McClaren – humiliated himself and England simultaneously under that umbrella with his stupid fucking biros and spiral-bound notepads. Saw him once in a hotel in Manchester (with Anthony Lilley) and there was no question who was the centre of the group… not him, but El Tel.

17 Paul Dacre – Mail supremo who reckons (vis-a-vis the Max Mosley case, son of #9 of course) distinguishing between ‘a sick Nazi orgy’ and ‘people having sex in military-style uniform’ is “almost surreally pedantic logic”

18 Melissa Jacobs – the mad bint who screwed up England’s World Cup 2018 bid for the sake of some Mail on Sunday pieces of silver [16.v.10]

19 Rebekah Wade (now Brooks, for a while at least) – sups with the devil, not with a long spoon, not even a short one, with a tongue in his mouth and up his other orifice from which much the same stuff dribbles [2010]

20 Edward VIII – a proven traitor and Nazi-sympathiser [2012]

21 George Osborne – for knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing (as well as being a hypocrite) (and for having a Patrician haircut) [2016]

22 Philip Green – the Unacceptable Face of Capitalism in every sense (have you seen those chins and haircut? there’s a limit to what  a tan can hide) [25/7/16]

23 Jeremy Corbyn – the self-righteous non-leader/stooge who destroyed the Labour Party – reminiscent of…

Roger McGough – The Leader

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

24 Nicola Sturgeon – the epitome of Bad Faith

25 Boris & Dave : I’m taking the liberty of yoking them together in a double act by way of some small revenge: they deserve each other. Boris Johnson – for proving to be the bumbling idiot he always looked (despite an at times charming surface) & David Cameron – for sacrificing the United Kingdom (a rather good union at the end of the day) on the pyre of the EU Referendum for the sake of some of his Tories, the self-same Tories who undermined the crucial Voting Reform Referendum during the 2010 Coalition.

Counterbalanced the buggers:

1 David Hockney – picked up where Picasso left off

2 Bob Marley – brought some Jamaican colour to the grey London of 77

3 Joe Strummer – with The Clash helped British musicians discover the honest energy of DIY

4 Tommy Cooper – just makes me laugh (could equally have been Eric Morecambe in this slot)

5 Francis Bacon – one of the two greats of 20th century art (alongside Picasso)

6 Hannah Billig, the Angel of Cable Street – too busy looking after people to collect her MBE (she asked them to post it)

7 John Peel [courtesy of Adam D “…fades in quietly” ]

8 Tony Hart: “We’re sorry we can’t return your pictures” [courtesy of Adam D] what nobler calling than bringing art and inspiration to children

9 Tony Wilson – for bringing together shining talent in a bold, rounded way – Martin Hannett, Pete Saville, Ian Curtis et al – and showing how to champion your hometown

10 James Bond – [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “overcame the stereotype of the sexually repressed Brit who liked a cold shower before having his bare bottom spanked by a tart” – those Pan edition covers certainly captured my young imagination

11 Michael Young – for the Open University and other progressive policy [courtesy of Practical Psychologist and in memory of Naomi Sargant, first Head of Education at Channel 4, appointed by Jeremy Isaacs in a more adventurous, imaginative age]

12 John Betjeman [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “he saw what we were doing to our land and tried to stop it”

13 Joe Orton – for reviving the Comedy of Manners and finding humour in the black stuff

14 Lennon & McCartney – for taking pop music up a gear or three. PP’s view below: “we led the world in something for the first time in a long time”

15 Geoff Hurst – for scoring that goal

16 Jonny Wilkinson – for scoring that try and creating a Perfect Moment

17 Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – for bringing Technicolor British Romanticism to the big screen

18 Rabbi Hugo Gryn – for his efforts in uniting the faiths and demonstrating how to survive to do good, a true Mensch

19 Steve Redgrave – for being a model of commitment, plus his work on dyslexia & education

20 Humph (Humphrey Lyttelton) – for combining the quintessence of Englishness with jazz

21 Peter Gabriel – a multifaceted, visionary musician who is a great collaborator [1/3/16]

22 Danny Boyle – created something of once-in-a-lifetime specialness in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, making us reflect in a fresh way on what Britishness actually is [2012]

23 David Bowie – kept things fresh for a long time [2016]

24 John Martyn – brought true soul to Britain, the world is a much lesser place without him [2016]

25 Nicholas Winton – who saved 669 children from the Nazis (including Alf Dubs who is trying to follow his example these days) and kept pretty quiet about it most of his life, finally receiving full recognition in the late 80s

 

Bubbling under:

Tony Benn – doing his best to show what politicians could be like {courtesy of Scanner, Adam D and Overthewire} [I’m not sure about this one, keep wavering]

LIST UPDATED AND COMPLETED 22/1/17

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