Tuesday, April 17, 2007

David Hockney

Dual exhibitions showcase new work by Hockney, and his choice of Turners.

Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent
Monday April 16, 2007

The greatest ever painter of watercolour landscapes will be joined at Tate Britain this summer by one of the most celebrated modern exponents of the form. An exhibition of JMW Turner's watercolour landscapes will be selected by David Hockney, working with Tate curators. And in a parallel exhibition, Hockney's landscapes of the east Yorkshire countryside will be shown, including recent work never seen in this country.

The five new, hitherto unseen Hockney oil paintings, each about 12ft long, depict the same view in Woldgate Woods in east Yorkshire.

Last year, the artist returned to the same spot five times between March and November. At a forking path in the forest he set up his equipment and made his large, six-panel oil paintings. Each took him a couple of days to complete as he worked in situ.

Each painting is strikingly different. In late March, when the leaves have yet to burst their buds, the view is all rich purple, lime and orange, the trees stark and architectural. In May, the colours have softened to luscious greens, which by July have deepened so that they have an almost luminous quality.

Contrasting versions painted in November show the cool clarity of autumn sun, and the greyish-creamy mistiness of a cold, hazy morning.

The Bradford-born Hockney has become increasingly obsessed by the east Yorkshire landscape. His links to the countryside there began when he worked on the land as a young man; and he has returned regularly over the years to visit family in Bridlington.

The landscape, which he describes as having "the sort of wide vistas you get all the time in the American west", started to become his focus around four years ago, when he started to produce watercolours - which allowed him to capture the changing moods of the weather quickly - in situ. Now he is concentrating on painting in oils. He loads up his pickup truck with his equipment and drives until he finds a spot he wants to paint. Then he absorbs the view, looking intently for a couple of hours before picking up a brush and painting quickly, with enormous concentration.

Hockney, who celebrates his 70th birthday next summer, said he was looking forward to the chance to "study in depth the Tate's extraordinary collection of Turner's watercolours. This is one of the most exciting mediums for an artist to work with." As part of his work on the Turner show, Hockney will present a selection of Turner's exploratory colour studies along with his own commentary on the artist's methods in constructing perspectives and patterns of colour and light.

Turner's watercolours have been in the limelight this year after the Tate managed to raise £4.95m to save the late masterpiece The Blue Rigi for the nation after a five-week public appeal. It will be one of the highlights of the exhibition, which will include 165 works, including Turner's beautiful studies of the Thames, which he made on the spot in notebooks.

Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain, said: "This is a rare opportunity for us to mount an exhibition of Turner's greatest watercolours, which due to conservation reasons can only occasionally be exhibited. I am delighted that David Hockney has agreed to work with us on the exhibition. It will show the development of the virtuoso techniques that enabled Turner first to paint watercolours that could compete with oil paintings, and later to transform all aspects of his art by their example."

· Hockney on Turner Watercolours and David Hockney: The East Yorkshire Landscape both open at Tate Britain, London, on June 11

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