David Hockney’s artwork has had many different stages, spanning decades, locations and mediums. From the sunny skies of Los Angeles to the lush Yorkshire countryside, the artist has worked with everything from canvas to iPads. At age 84, the artist is still a force to be reckoned with, a living proof of creative resilience against personal struggles or collective tragedies. It is this ingenuity and creative spirit that shines through at his current exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020. Perhaps the biggest exhibition of artworks created entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hockney’s latest show includes 116 iPad drawings which are exhibited in the form of large prints. They depict the determined cycle of nature, unfettered by the chaos humans were swamped by. Chronicling the flow of time through the changing seasons, the drawings coincide with the spread of the coronavirus across the globe.
From his sharply intimate portraits of friends, family and lovers to introspective drawings of nature’s transformation, the unmistakable visual language of Hockney radiates energy. His particular ability to see beyond the everyday realities to unveil the untapped power of colour continues to inspire the next generation of artists. In honour of the Royal Academician, we look at the contemporary artists inspired by the British maestro’s iconic forms, hues, and techniques.
A visual artist and illustrator, Graceland London creates whimsical paintings with a vibrant palette that tackle issues of trauma, isolation, and vanity. With a thin veil of radiance on their surface, Graceland London employs neon colours and comic narratives to absorb her viewers. Similar to Hockney who illustrates hope through jubilant colourways and intriguing juxtapositions, Graceland London’s artwork is undoubtedly influenced by the British artist. Both artists’ work also allude to contemporary digital production methods with the sleek presence in paintings such as A Sign or Sin City, hinting to Graceland London’s use of an iPad before rendering her work in paint.
Although Hockney’s practice has continuously defied categorization, he has been heavily associated with the pop art movement. Direct depictions of their eras’ socio-political landscapes and a celebration of popular culture are among links between the artist’s oeuvre and the 1960s’ eminent art movement. Look into Coco Dávez’s work to find reflections of similar traits in the present.
The Spanish artist’s paintings of iconic figures of pop culture are devoid of their facial features, sans the impressions that made them recognizable across the universe. Yet, through Dávez’s command of colour, Keith Haring, Steve Jobs or Princess Diana are indisputably recognizable. Reminiscent of Hockney’s ability to create impression and character with minimal gestures, the artist relies on her palette and modest detailing to build a portrait.
Art history can be described as a search to capture the human condition—a path that both Hockney and the British sculptor Schoony share. Schoony’s life-size fiberglass and wood sculptures of human figures, particularly of children, contain a mystery native to Hockney’s posers. Besides their mutual demureness, both artists approach expression and gesture by inviting the viewer to look beyond the physical. Both the canvases of Hockney and fiberglass of Schoony invites the viewer to discover the psychological depths and inner beings beyond the material.
Figures in Dawn Okoro’s paintings, on the other hand, defy stillness and find their prowess in movement. The Nigerian American artist’s paintings of African American women embody each figure with vivacity, amidst a gesture in front of a bright background. Okoro’s capturing of movement in The Three Graces or Roshi recalls Hockney's iconic pool paintings, such as the queer art masterpiece Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972) or Splash (1966), which both convey bodily movement with a gentle swiftness and painterly precision.
A flirtation between figuration and abstraction is a remarkable feature in Hockney’s recent iPad drawings, in which illustrations of rain, grass or flowers may well be viewed as abstract marvels of colour. Similarly, Dan Baldwin’s paintings blend geometric forms with loose gestures. While Hockney is known for placing his posers in front of detailed architectures, these backgrounds also reveal his interest in geometric form. Baldwin’s Study for Fragmented Landscape series contains a similar energy in which the British artist treats the paper with a mathematical precision to achieve painterly effects in drawing.
While painter Sebastian Chaumeton’s paintings of contemporary disarray diverge from Hockney’s tranquil rendition of his subjects, they join in their capturing of humour. Beyond a reserved and occasionally enigmatic aura, a work by Hockney will always possess a veiled playfulness, a witty undertone captured either in the poser’s expression or a detailing of the landscape. Chaumeton assumes chaos in his colourful works to deliver a tongue-in-cheek commentary on violence, alienation, and the technology today. Recognizable pop culture characters like Margie Simpson or Spider Man, engage in bizarre acts of rampage or anarchy with a dash of farce. The young British painter’s colour palette also borrows cues from the master painter with radiant, even sunny, pastel shades. Similar to Hockney’s iPad drawings, his acrylic and oil paintings convey a digital impression, a nod to contemporary painting’s relationship with technology today.