David Hockney: Brimming With Talent But Such A Miserable Git

David Hockney

I would love to say I’ve met David Hockney: I admire him enormously as a draughtsman, especially innumerable portraits capturing likeness with minimum effort and brush-stroke. He just can, and does, execute perfectly first time, which is an extremely rare gift (something Tracey Emin can only dream of). This is why he is worth celebrating, to all the people who say he is only the greatest living British painter by default of being alive still. Surely that title was previously that of Lucian Freud, but then Hockney is a more subtle a painter of greater draughtsman capabilities: Freud was all about texture and tone rather than accurate rendering. It is a long overdue retrospective that we’re really looking forward to at the Tate.

I went to the same school as Hockney in Bradford, and share a mutual friend who is also an artist: though every time an introduction was to be made, it depended entirely on Hockney’s mood which was volatile to say the least. So it never happened, but then maybe he would have whinged about the anti-smoking laws that were due to come into force (around 2007-ish). He really is a miserable git, from all I can tell from other media appearances. But then one is allowed to be, there’s nothing wrong with this. One of his earliest paintings remains at the school, completed while Hockney was in his early teens: it is a row of ties painted on paper, hung with absolutely no security inside the school. Up in Yorkshire-land it seems people are less fussed about arty-farty shite, as no one seemed remotely excited about this early Hockney gracing their eyes each day. I remember standing outside Salts Mill in Saltaire – itself a permanent Yorkshire gallery full of Hockneys – and hearing a young woman stating loudly “Who’s this David Hockney?!”. I think Hockney himself still embodies a grizzled Yorkshire not giving a shit attitude. But I digress: the temptation to pinch the ties – probably worth stupid money now – was sometimes overwhelming.

It seems someone so talented as Hockney must eventually have gotten bored – hence his forays into iPad art which itself killed everything that he was so good at: accuracy of composition and rendering. They are embarrassingly clumsy, which just goes to show that someone with less talent would probably make iPad art which looks like regurgitated spaghetti. Also his large trees at the Royal Academy which filled an entire wall at the Summer Show a couple of years back was lazy in the extreme. But he has done fascinating work such as investigation into the use of camera obscura in early Renaissance Flemish work, notably the Arnolfini portrait. I’m hoping the retrospective does his amazingly skilled hand justice.

artbytch@artlyst  Photo: Paul Black © artlyst 2016