I love the work of David Hockney (born 1937). His work is profoundly honest and built on two vital qualities: an ability to draw (and by that I mean to see) and genuine love for what he paints. It’s never a job for him. It’s always a passionate interest.
My art teacher, Mr John Blunt, a wonderful man obsessed with Blondie and playing the guitar, took me and a bunch of fellow students to London to look at paintings in the late 70s. It was then I saw Hockney’s Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy for the first time:
The impact of this picture was so great I went and raided libraries for any books I could find on Hockney to find out more. I learned the importance of drawing and colour – something which Hockney himself learned from Vincent van Gogh, another great teacher of mine.
On Tuesday I saw ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ again at the David Hockney Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. If you haven’t seen it before you’ll have to put up with my measly attempts at describe it: oooh blimey, it’s like WOW, man! it’s HUGE! and spectacular and filled with symbolism and art historical references.
Hockney has made portraits for his entire career. Through his portraits, which are often of people he knows personally, loves or admires, he describes what it is to be human. If that sounds like utter bollocks then check out his work and you’ll see why I can’t describe what I mean in words and Hockney can only do it in paint. Look especially at his portraits of his mum, of Celia Birtwell and of Gregory Evans. He’s tried different techniques down the years but everything is underpinned by superlative draughtsmanship – even his photography. Certainly his drawing is as sharp as Vincent van Gogh’s, and probably now even surpasses the Dutch master. But then Hockney has been an artist for more than 50 years. Vincent did it for fewer than 10.