As David Hockney's new works arrive at the NGV, Buro culturemaker Noelle Faulkner talks about the show and why it's so important
If you don't follow David Hockney's news and movements very closely, but you know his work - then his latest works may come as a surprise. At least they did for me. I first saw the works at Pace Gallery in New York earlier this year. The exhibition had no captions on the wall and so I spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out the medium of said works. They were colourful and intensely layered like a painting, but yet, there are not lines, no marks in the paper and the works are completely flat - are these prints? Photographs of paintings?After finally asking the gallery assistant, I was informed they were iPad drawings. Brilliant.
These works, and many, many more have now arrived at the NGV in a not-yet-seen scale. In fact this is the biggest many of them have been shown, some of which stretch for metres around a room. There are still lifes, landscapes, video works and a hall of 82 portraits of his friends and luminaries, including Barry Humphries, Frank Gehry, John Baldessari and his Sydney-based brother, John Hockney - overall it's a joyful exhibiton. I was told by a gallery assistant that he used to mess about on his iOS devices and would send little painted messages to his friends - "Good morning, here's some flowers, From David". Thinking about Hockney using his fingers to trace little messages, cigarette in hand just for the pleasure of his friends and family is a lovely, warm thought in itself.
Now for some, "iPad drawings" might not seem very glamorous. But keep in mind, this is one of the world's most influential living artists, so to see what Hockney can do with technology is as fascinating at it is inspiring. Looking at his technique, which is exactly like that of a painting in terms of the technique of colour, line and layered application (the exhibition features videos showing his process), it makes you wonder that if an artist, who has spent decades painting, drawing photographing and designing manually by hand, what does the future hold for artists who solely work in a digital medium - where will we see tablet art go from here?
In addition to the works, if you arrive at the NGV on a Friday night for the late-night parties which see the gallery open into the night with and live tunes from bands like Custard and Regurgitator. Rev-heads, should keep an eye out for the very cool Hockney-designed Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster (alongside the Viktor & Rold C-Class Cabriolet). The chic art-drive has been designed for the exhibition to celebrate ten years of Mercedes-Benz being a principal partner to the NGV - without which, the NGV couldn't do the things it does. The car lends itself to the California-based Brit quite well too, you can imagine hitting highway 1, top-down, tunes blasting in that thing, or rather, cruising through one of Hockney's Yosemite landscapes with ease.
Next year, the Tate Britain will show a huge Hockney retrospective (February 9- May 29, 2017, tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/david-hockney) and it will be the biggest survey of the artist's work to-date, so without a doubt, in the next few months you will be seeing a lot of his work in the zeitgeist cloud. It's a smart move and says a lot about the intelligence and innovation behind the National Gallery of Victoria's planning, that instead of looking backwards, it's looking forwards, hence the beauty and double meaning in the exhibition title: David Hockney: Current. And this is why you should do see this exhibition - it's a celebration of the 76-year-old's recent work AND his continued influence. it's easy to get caught up in "retrospectives" but I think we should leave that to the dead for now. Why not celebrate Hockney's legacy through the fact he's still making, still moving forward, still flowing and still bringing so much joy to the world?
David Hockney: Current is on display from until March 13, 2017; ngv.vic.gov.au