As the most successful show in the history of the Royal Academy, David Hockney’s ‘A Bigger Picture’ has crowds queuing all the way around the sunny Mayfair courtyard to see his gloriously coloured visions of the Yorkshire countryside and beyond…
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The early bird catches the worm, it’s a 9am start for keen queuers but trust us when we say, it’s worth any wait. Hot summer days captured in unmixed shades of watermelon slurpee greens, Fanta yellows and grape soda Purples will make your eyes pop. Although the oldest paintings date back to Hockney’s student days at the Royal College of Art in the 50s, the show is really about his most recent works. There are epic landscapes that sprawl across multiple canvases and transform exhibition walls into windows onto the Wolds; multi-perspectival videos that journey through sun-dappled glades, shot from 9 cameras mounted onto the front of his only assistant’s jeep; and 50 digital dreams of the forest, painted on the iPad’s Brushes app and printed onto a series of canvases that fill the RA’s grandest exhibition space, accompanied by an immersive view of The Arrival Of Spring In Woldgate, East Yorkshire In 2011. Hockney was born in Bradford, in West Yorkshire, and after adventures in LA and London he’s returned to his home county in all of its half-remembered, hallucinatorily colourful glory. More than anything, the show seems to be about the beauty of the natural world, and the cyclical nature of life and death. Many rooms are dedicated to one particular landscape – such as a view through the tree-lined avenues of the Woldgate Woods, or a tunnel of trees close to Kilham in the East Riding – as it turns through the seasons, blooming in springtime and falling away in the winter. Hockney describes the hawthorn blossoming on the roads around Bridlington as “a thick white cream… poured over everything,” and paints it every year. “It is a pleasure to witness, just an intense visual pleasure,” he says, and the same is true of this extraordinary show, which stirs up happy memories of summery days in the Great British countryside.
A few years ago, when David Hockney was busy painting the works that would end up in ‘A Bigger Picture’, i-D New York Editor and Contributing Photographer, Matt Jones found himself in Bridlington and decided to knock on the artist’s door and introduce himself. They ended up chatting for hours. The next day Hockney invited him to come watch the dawn rise over East Yorkshire; this is the photograph that you see alongside this article, and also a landscape that appears in the show. See more of what Matt’s Hockney moment in The Insi-De Outsi-De Issue, and catch a glimpse here.
David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture is on until 9 April, after which it tours to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.
Text: Dean Kissick