Thursday, November 19, 2009

Above is Mulholland Drive.

David Hockney continues to amaze me with his endless inventiveness. He seems to be interested in understanding everything from physics to optics - and all his studies spill over into his work.

One of his prints, Nichols Canyon, hangs over our piano, so I was interested to come across his thoughts on another work from that time period. Remember seeing Mulholland Drive at a retrospective years ago at LACMA - it's the giant one, 7 feet by 22 feet. What I didn't know then how he was exploring the way time and space are dealt with by the artist. He had been browsing through a book called Principles of Chinese Painting by George Rowley.

He got so excited he sped over to Metropolitan in New York to see Chinese scrolls. What captivated him was not brush work or subjects, but the way the Chinese dealt with depth and perspective. Here's the explanation he gave in a lecture at the time:

When the Chinese were faced with the same problem of spatial depth in the T'ang period, they reworked the early principles of time and suggested a space through which one might wander and a space which implied more space beyond the picture frame. We restricted space to a single vista as though seen through an open door; they suggested the unlimited space of nature as though they had stepped through that open door and had known the sudden breathtaking experience of space extending in every drection and infinitely into the sky. (David Hockney Retrospective, Tuchman and Barron, LACMA)

He was fascinated by the way the viewer takes in the images on the scroll a little at a time as it is unrolled. (These unroll horizontally, not vertically, and come out of a box you hold in your hands. You cannot just glance at them.)

Hockney explained how the experience of viewing a work on the scroll, watching the landscape literally unfold, scene by scene, and tree by tree, without and borders or breaks, is quite a dramatically different experience from viewing a Western landscape while you're standing completely still and looking at one place.

Being Hockney, he has a lot more light to shed on this, all pretty interesting, I think. Do you like his work as much as I do? A quick look at his work is always fun, but for me, understanding what he was up to adds a whole other dimension to my appreciation.

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