David Hockney has long used collage in his art – building large composite panoramas of great American landscapes (desert roads, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite…) from photographs in a four-year break from painting in the early 1980s.
His new exhibition, A Bigger Picture (at the Royal Academy of Art, London until 9th April 2012) shows no evidence of a pause in painting, quite the opposite – the walls of the RA are loaded with canvasses large and small, an uplifting and refreshing celebration of the British landscape in an abundance of light, colour and movement. Hockney is nothing if not prolific. But he also found time to explore collage again, this time using high-definition video.
The resulting films take us slowly down short stretches of Yorkshire road in distinct seasons – we travel through tunnels of trees, past fields or hedges, in spring, summer, autumn, winter. They were captured on a nine-camera rig mounted on the front of a 4×4, and are shown two at a time on a series of eighteen screens: a precise point in the road is shown twice in stark contrast with itself in a different season. Summer is surprisingly dark, as dense green leaves block out the light, winter is a wonderland of snow and light. The impact is moving – the multiple viewpoints cause us to question our own singular perspective on the world, the amount we are able to absorb, what we choose to see and what we choose not to. They provide so much information and detail, all of it in focus, and allow the viewer to move through time and space in a way that a single photograph or film (even 3D) simply cannot. They are reinforcement to Hockney’s painted expression of love to his native county as they are not sentimental, they cannot skew or tint what we see, through them we can only observe what is really there. And that, without question, is exceptionally beautiful.
Images: David Hockney, “Nov. 7th, Nov. 26th 2010, Woldgate Woods, 11.30 am and 9.30 am”, Film still from 18 screen video, Courtesy of the artist © David Hockney.