Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Yorkshire prepares to reclaim Hockney

Hockney's six canvas Woldgate Woods in East Yorkshire

Bradford-born David Hockney is synonymous with Los Angeles and sunny California but all that is about to change as a new exhibition of his landscape paintings reclaims him for the county of his birth, Yorkshire.

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture opens in January at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and Hockney hopes the collection of new work, the majority of which has been painted in East Yorkshire where he lives when he is not in the Hollywood Hills, will be as iconic for Yorkshire as his infamous swimming pool paintings were for Los Angeles in the 1960s.

He said: “It’s a landscape I know from my childhood, it has meaning to me, but I never thought of it as a subject matter until 10 years ago when I realised, for me at my age, it was a terrific subject, a marvellous place.”

Adding: “It’s a lovely bit of England still, not spoilt very much.”

Over 150 works will be shown across the Royal Academy’s Main Galleries, including sketches, ipad drawings, video installations and giant paintings that span the width of the walls.

Such has been quality of the body of work produced that one of that exhibition’s curators Edith Devaney from the Royal Academy predicts Hockney will become forever associated with East Yorkshire just as fellow painter John Constable is with Suffolk.

Hockney makes for an unlikely tourism ambassador. He shot to fame as a leading light in the British Pop Art movement in the 1960s and moved to southern California shortly afterwards. He doesn’t like crowds of people, which is why the solitude of the Yorkshire Wolds is so appealing to him. The thought of a surge of tourists heading to Yorkshire to see the places depicted in his paintings fills him with a slight dread and yet the global attention this exhibition is bound to generate is almost guaranteed to attract art lovers from across the world to discover Hockney’s Yorkshire.

They’d be advised to set aside a few days as his influence spans the width of the county. He was born in the west and studied art at Bradford; Salts Mill in Saltaire still houses one of the finest collections of his work in the world, one he constantly adds to and updates. In the east, locations in the Yorkshire Wolds such as Kilham, Garrowby Hill and Thixendale are about to put on the map by the new exhibition, as will Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast, where he lives when he is not in California, and of which he said:

“I’ve been going to Bridlington for a long time I’ve spent over 30 Christmasses there [at the home of his mother and sister] and I never stayed in the winter that much as I thought it was too cold and too dark but the first time I did, I realised how beautiful the winter was, it was not black or white, it was not grey, in fact sometimes there was more colour than the summer.”

Hockney said he hoped that when the exhibition opened in January it would open people’s eyes to the beauty of spring and encourage people to look more at their changing surroundings. He might not like it very much but the exhibition might also result in him having to share his beloved East Yorkshire with more people than he is used to as the county reclaims one of its most famous sons.

The exhibition will run at the Royal Academy from 21 January 2012 to 9 April 2012.

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