3 May 2014

Hockney, Printmaker at Dulwich Picture Gallery

I enjoyed the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2012 so much that I was prepared to go to Dulwich to see another collection of his works.

The Citymapper app suggested several ways of getting there and I chose to go to Vauxhall by train and then to Brixton by tube where I caught a P4 bus to take me right to the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

That route also allowed me a little time to revisit some haunts in Brixton where I worked from 2003 to 2006. I was delighted to discover that my regular cafe from those days, San Marino, had moved to bigger and better premises and even more delighted that they remembered me. I had a panini there because that's what you do.

I got to Dulwich almost spot on 3pm which left me with 2 hours to see the exhibition, and it took most of that time.

The gallery had a very familiar feel to it, much like Tate Britain of the V&A, which is not that surprising as it was designed by Sir John Soane in 1817. It consisted of two long galleries divided in to sections each with a large skylight. The larger gallery had the main exhibition (I did not look at that) and Hockney was in the slightly smaller set of rooms that ran alongside it.

The exhibition was arranged chronologically and I was surprised at how much chronology there was. Hockney had done lots of work with prints when he first started and it was a medium that he returned to throughout his career modifying his technique and style as he did so.

I learned a lot about the arts or printmaking from the exhibition and I surprised myself by how interesting I found that. The knowledge helped me to understand some of the prints better as Hockney often used new ideas and mixed techniques in the same print.

The subject matter was something of a surprise too and many of his earlier works addressed homosexuality, which was still illegal in the UK at that time.

The early prints were usually in series inspired by literary themes so that they felt like book illustrations but without the physical constraint of a book.

It was only towards the end of the exhibition that some of the more familiar (to me) Hockney themes appeared with the subject matter changing from people to places and things and with more colour being used.

The famous swimming pool print above was one of a series shown how the final picture was composed from different layers with different colours.

The final set of prints included two stunning ones of the courtyard in a hotel in Mexico. I preferred the other print but could not find it on-line and I kept to the no photography rule despite very strong temptation.

This looked more like a painting than a print due to its complexity and the number of colours used. Hockney achieved this simply (!) by using a lot of layers.

The pictures that I have chosen are unrepresentative of the exhibition and that is partially due to personal preference but also due to what I could reuse from the internet. The earlier pictures were much simpler, not unlike the cartoons that we are used to in newspapers, but no less interesting.

Hockney Printmaker lacked the visual impact of A Bigger Picture but that would be an unfair comparison to make as this was a very different exhibition. Hockney Printmaker told the tale of his use of this medium intelligently and entertainingly. I could ask for no more than that.

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