David Hockney is 80 this year. Tate Britain has decided that simply sending a card is not enough to mark the occasion and has put on the most extensive retrospective exhibition of his work ever. Proceedings are kicked off with some of the paintings he made when he was a student at the Royal College of Art. I was particularly taken with this depiction of a packet of Typhoo Tea: in the audio guide that comes with the ticket, David Hockney explains how he drinks tea when working and so when he came to decide to do a still life empty packets of tea were in plentiful supply.
Pictures hanging on the wall are the traditional focus for an exhibition but at this one I was amused by the titles for each room. ‘Paintings with People in’, ‘Sunbather’ and ‘Close Looking’ for example tell you what you are going to see without pulling any punches. The huge colour saturated canvases in ‘The Wolds’ gave me the perfect opportunity to play with my new wide angle lens.
Playing with the possibilities of new technology is, for me, one of David Hockney’s endearing features. When I first came to London, the Hayward had a show of collages that he had made using Polaroids. I remember it as being wonderful and embarked on similar experiments, the Tate devotes a room them. He is still better at them than me.
Colour and lots of it dominates the exhibition. So when you get to the penultimate room and are greeted by twenty five black and white drawings documenting the arrival of Spring 2013 in the Yorkshire Wolds, the effect is arresting. I was unable to resist taking a close look at all of them.
For most of us, iPads have transformed our lives by making us more connected to each other all the time. Whilst I’m distracted by the endless chatter of instant messaging, David Hockney has embraced the devise as an artistic tool. Not only as the finished image but also to record the creation from the first mark through to the final flourish.
Tickets for this exhibition are selling fast. One way to get round tickets not being available for your desired time slot is to take out membership which will give you access to this and all other special exhibitions on at both London sites for a year. You also get to sip your coffee in special members rooms. Prices start at £70 for one person and can be added to with invitations to private views or access for more people, full details can be found by clicking here.
9 February 2017 – 29 May 2017
Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
Open: daily 10am – 6pm
Admission: £17.70 adults, concessions available. Booking tickets in advance recommended