London becomes another city when it’s sunny out. All the grim, pale facades that once were, in the overcast light become sanguine, hopeful, and full of new life. That could be said of any city but I feel that London–and England for that matter as well– is particularly prone to pulling a meteorologically-induced Jekyll and Hyde of the positive variety.
Few creators have been able to accurately capture Britain’s ‘other side’ as well as David Hockney. Perhaps this is due to the fact that he spent all those years in sunny LA. I have often imagined a hybrid city London-LA (or LoLA) and how perfect it would be with its uplifting, balmy weather, magnificent architecture and cultural contributions.
As a LoLA denizen myself, I was particularly looking forward to seeing the David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. It’s sold out and I’ve heard nothing but stellar reviews.
Hoards of slow ambling salt and pepper headed visitors filled up the galleries on my visit–Hockney is, after all, their generational emblem of creativity. Yet, even though the space was cramped and packed, the exhibit delivered on its inherent promise to depict both the scale and depth of Hockney’s work–largely his country lane and tree paintings.
Truthfully, I was really only familiar with the vintage LA stuff–the pools, Hollywood Hills homes, etc. So experiencing (and that is the word when you’re dealing with pieces of this scale) the work was phenomenal.
The best view in the space beckons as you enter the first sparsely populated, modest exhibition hall of open-space tree paintings. If you peer through to one of the back galleries you get a perfectly pulled-back vista of one of the largest tree paintings that occupies an entire massive wall.
The rustic country lane paintings made me nostalgic for California road trips. They were rich in vibrant colours and promise (as a road trip is). I read a placard that named some of the works including a piece called ‘Nichols Canyon’ (which is just a stone’s throw away from my LA home). So of course I felt a sense of nostalgia and closeness to the work. Imagine my surprise when I inched closer to a particular piece that recalled Central California and saw that it was not California or the States but the English countryside.
Sense of place, memory, seasonal shifts, geographic markers–all of these things seem to blur in the works of the show–into the realm of the universal.
Some of my favourite paintings were small and hung side by side (clusters of many) on a massive wall. More ‘tree tunnels,’ country lanes and such. In all of them, a common thread: that distant point that he’s manoeuvring your eye towards. It’s very Jungian, archetypal and profoundly magical.
Despite the fact that most of the show was centred on these natural pieces, towards the end of the exhibition there were a few paintings of ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ that had a dreamlike feeling to them…Something archetypal, a shared memory in the consciousness of all, a past life becoming present…
[The exhibition runs through the 9th of April]