Preview

It’s hard to picture David Hockney in the act of painting Bigger Trees Near Warter, 2007. That’s not to say it seems beyond the British painter, now edging towards the age of 80, to pull off the ambitious technical feat involved in rendering a coppice in Yorkshire over 50 large panels. That’s doable, at least for Hockney. What’s hard to picture is the restless painter simply sitting still for six weeks.

This strain of restiveness informs Hockney’s upcoming solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Current. Rather than try to encapsulate more than 60 years in a survey show, the gallery is focusing on one decade of his practice, from Bigger Trees Near Warter to now.

Within that small slice is all the irrepressible experimentation that has marked Hockney’s entire career.

“What really struck us,” says Simon Maidment, NGV’s senior curator of contemporary art, “was this incredible energy that he has and continues to have and the volume of work and the wide range of experimentation in just the last few years.”

A lot of this experimentation tracks the invention of new technologies, which Hockney routinely adopts without hesitation. Before it was the Polaroid and the fax machine, whereas now it’s the iPhone and the iPad. While others might ignore the opportunities afforded by touch-screen technology, Hockney has embraced it, setting aside his familiarity with the brush for the foreign and unforgiving tap and swipe.

“We wanted to get across the sense that here is someone who is not interested in slowing down and stopping,” says Maidment. “In fact, they’re interested in challenging themselves more today than perhaps they ever have.”

"BIGGER TREES NEAR WARTER OR/OU PEINTURE SUR LE MOTIF POUR LE NOUVEL AGE POST-PHOTOGRAPHIQUE" 2007 OIL ON 50 CANVASES (36 X 48" EA.) 180 X 480" OVERALL © DAVID HOCKNEY PHOTOGRAPHY BY: RICHARD SCHMIDT COLLECTION: TATE BRITAIN
David Hockney, English 1937–, Bigger trees near Warter or ou Peinture sur le motif pour le Nouvel Age Post-Photographique 2007, oil on 50 canvases, (a-dd) 459.0 x 1225.0 cm Tate, London. Presented by the artist 2008 © David Hockney.

Current
David Hockney
National Gallery of Victoria
11 November – 13 March 2017

Toby Fehily