Review: David Hockney Bigger and Closer ( not smaller and further away)

“This show is staggering …” exhibition review by Cadi Froehlich LG

There have been several presentations of immersive art experiences recently- huge projections of blockbuster images by blockbuster artists – Picasso and Munch leap to mind, and I have avoided them deliberately. I always wonder what animation and distortion might add to 2D masterpieces which have already been reproduced countless times.

Hence I approached the new David Hockney exhibition at the Lightroom with trepidation, encouraged by a friend. I don’t think any of the publicity shots I’ve seen have been that appealing – because of course they also can only be static and 2D.

This huge cube space at Lightroom has images projected on 5 surfaces, including the floor where we perch on benches or just the carpet. It is an immersive experience of Hockney’s work, a complete-feeling retrospective narrated by the artist himself.

In part because of the use of the surfaces and also the nature of Hockney’s recent embrace of the iPad to produce his work, this show is staggering. 

Hearing the commentary from Hockney, his methods, his thoughts and life experiences at the time, from art school via LA, Bridport and Normandy, brings his paintings to life. The layered emergence of images stroke by stroke on the iPad seems made to be seen like this. 

I admit I skipped the past RA show of the seasons produced on iPad, but I had another opportunity to see them and really look at them here. The other works from this period came to life too through the films Hockey produced and through the animated record of their creation.

Earlier works are given a new perspective, as we get to see the multiple Polaroids which are composited for the narrative photos we’ve seen, and even earlier archive footage of the artist painting the bottom of his swimming pool, and numerous paintings from early series putting each other into more remarkable context as we hear his thoughts and processes too.

I was aware of the deep involvement of technicians in realising this show, reaching into archives and backups beyond the hang and construction of the space. I imagine this to be quite collaborative and intimate, sharing workspaces and ideas to create something very new. 

I was really glad I overcame my immersive experience aversion because to see a lifetime’s work re-presented by the living Hockney felt like a real first. The subjects and paintings really did feel bigger and closer.

“It’s the now that’s eternal”di Froehlich LG

Cadi Froehlich LG, 2023
exhibition photos Cadi Froehlich

David Hockney Bigger and Closer ( not smaller and further away)
12 Lewis Cubitt Square
22 February – 1 October 2023Exhbition review by Ca

Historical note: David Hockney joined The London Group for a couple of years in 1963, the same year as Frank Bowling LG, Michael Elliot, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff and Evert Lundquist