The thing that immediately strikes the observer is of course the scale and sheer exuberance of the paintings; the power and vibrancy of the bursts of colour he employs is jaw dropping. At first the canvases appear to be fairly naive efforts with large daubs of paint used to create something vaguely representive of nature. Only by looking again, gazing deeper, becoming attuned to the artist's eye do we begin to see the underlying complexity. He is making us
reconsider our relationship with the natural world. Incidentally, any human presence in these paintings is implicit. Yet we are almost always visible by our efforts to shape the landscape, hedgerows and paths, tracks through woods, hay bales spread out along fields, sometimes a building or the occasional parked-up vehicle.
He seems to be letting us know that we are taking far too much for granted, encouraging us to take another look. Telling us that we've all been mesmerised by our kindergarten teachers, that a thick brown stump with a large green head resembling broccoli isn't all there is to a tree. Hockney makes us re-examine and question exactly what we are seeing, is a tree trunk really brown, a leaf merely green, and could a muddy path actually be a purple aisle through a
cathedral vibrant with colour? Some of the paintings are so vast and their impact upon the eye so dynamic their subject matter seems rather unfamiliar and perhaps quite unrepresentative at first. I am thinking here of the paintings of hawthorn hedgerows and trees in blossom which might pass as designs for an alien landscape in a sci-fi movie. Yet this is our own world, we're just not seeing it.
Hockney has never been afraid to embrace new technology. After all, the pencil was new technology once. A large number of the works were made using an ipad, and at first I wasn't sure whether I liked them, perhaps I'm still not one-hundred percent certain, but he most certainly mastered the device and the technique of using it. However I felt these worked better on a smaller scale and often became blander as the prints increased in size. Still worth seeing though. 'A bigger picture', the show's motif, generally achieves what it is aiming for, and the massive multi-screen with its projected images of woodlands and dancers at work somehow explains visually what Hockney is trying to achieve far better than I am able to with words.
As I walked enthralled through the exhibition yesterday, I was reminded of a quote from William Blake, "The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way."
If you get an opportunity to go, I strongly recommend it.
The exhibition runs at the Royal Academy of Arts, London until 9 April.
The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao 14 May - 30 September.
Museum Ludwig, Cologne 27 October 2012 - 4 February 2013.