It was a grey day, spent largely talking with other (grey-haired) authors about Kindles (which are grey) and how Amazon is about to destroy our world. Apart from a jolly lunch with Helen Hollick, it was all hard work, this Society of Authors seminar, held to tell elderly quill-pushers how to blog, tweet and be free of our mainstream publishers.
I staggered out at 5pm to a bistre evening, monochrome, damp, Piccadilly as painted by Edward Hopper. I met an author called Kate on the way up St James and we discussed the day. We both had an hour to spare; I had my eye on the Patisserie Valerie, if only for old time’s sake, and was about to suggest tea and a slice of cheesecake when Kate said she was a member of the Royal Academy. Would I fancy seeing the David Hockney exhibition?
WOULD I??? I don’t like big blockbuster exhibitions full of shuffling people and avoided going to Leonardo recently, but when you’re outside a place, have an hour to kill and someone is offering to take you in for nothing. Well. Hold me back.
From the charcoal evening I walked into an explosion of colour. The naughty boy who gave up proper art to do weird stuff in the 60s, then went to the States and sent back the occasional swimming pool or canyon, has come home – in every respect. The Yorkshire lad has rediscovered Yorkshire and reconnected with nature. The results are absolutely staggering. You reel backwards from pictures of England like you’ve never seen her before: green, watercolour England in Tahiti colours, flamboyant, rich and not inaccurate. I have seen the countryside that golden, that red, that blue – maybe not that cerise or turquoise, but Hockney’s the artist and if that’s what he sees, that’s fine. I must look again.
There are an awful lot of pictures of one wood in East Yorkshire in all seasons. Apparently most of the pictures were painted specifically not only for the exhibition but for the walls of the RA, which explains the striking unity between the giant pictures and the space containing them. Hockney often chooses a low viewpoint; in one room in particular, you walk in and gasp, like everyone around you, because suddenly you are on a path into a beech wood, feeling like a Startright kid walking into the sunset. Strangers begin talking in front of this work.
Hockney is a dauber on speed. These giant pictures, made up of rows of separate canvases, have been given dates like 21-22 March. Two days work to cover one Academy wall. But his mastery is the sense of space (you could hug those deep woods) and colour. An hour in this exhibition is like an hour in a spice market in New Delhi.
It’s still too big, of course, and grown people start to whimper, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ in room 5 (answer, ‘yes’).
You think you’re going to go out on your hands and knees, colour-saturated and weak, but Hockney has a last surprise. A room of pictures he did while the exhibition was being installed. Misty places – can’t remember where – my eyes were losing focus. But they were drawn on an i-Pad!
I didn’t have time for the video show. I think I need to go back when I’m fresh and haven’t spent the day considering tweets, blogs and kindles.
For a little taster, go to http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/hockney/
And for a very interesting view on Amazon which I don’t disagree with, see ‘Amazon will destroy you’ on http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/02/amazon-will-destroy-you.html