Despite its high demand extending the exhibition from June 4 to October 1, reviews from art critics have been negative. ‘Is it art?’, Will Jennings asks, whilst The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones reviews the experience as a ‘passionless blast of kitsch’.
So, is ‘David Hockney: Bigger and Closer’ worth the trip to London and the additional £25 admittance fee, amongst the negative reviews from art critics?
My partner and I arrived late, slightly sweaty from racing across London in the surprising Spring heat, and arrived at Lightroom, an 8-minute walk from King’s Cross Station. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d previously encountered Hockney’s work but knew little of Lightroom, nor what this three-year collaboration between the two would entail.
After showing our tickets, we were gestured down a narrow corridor lined with colourful light pallets. Is this it? Pretty lights? I remember thinking, before walking through double doors and into the main space.
The room is four stories tall. On every wall, high-resolution images and videos are projected. I’d seen immersive experiences like this peppered around the internet, but experiencing it first-hand felt slightly magical – we’d stepped through a portal into a pocket of the universe brimmed with colour, art, and music.
We entered while David Hockney was talking about his experience of living in LA, and the artwork he produced during this period. On the walls, a video of him traveling down the winding roads of LA was projected. This was a journey through sixty years of Hockney’s art, and the audience were invited to travel with him.
It was here where he introduced his famous pool paintings, and introduced us to his philosophy on perspective. “The eye is always moving; if it isn’t moving you are dead […] I’ve included those multiple angles of vision in paintings of friends in my studio […] A still picture can have movement in it because the eye moves”, Hockney stated.
His artwork mirrors this interest in perspective, seen from his 9 canvas study of the grand canyon to ‘Garrowby Hill’. Much of his art encourages the eye to move across the canvas or, in this case, the projection.
His photography particularly explores movement, adopting a cubist slant as it refracts moments and sews together different photographs taken from multiple perspectives of the same object.
I was particularly interested in his series of photographs depicting a young man swimming in a pool, projected onto the walls and floor. The cubist elements creates an intimate effect and makes on think of old motion pictures such as ‘The Horse in Motion’ (1878) which similarly assembled multiple images to create movement.
Hockney likes to warp perspective to reflect how the human eye and brain perceive images and, as a consequence, life.
For example, he has a range of paintings of chairs portrayed from different perspectives and angles. ‘La Mort’ versus ‘La Vie’, he stated during the interactive experience, using the shapes of the French words for ‘death’ and ‘life’ to communicate his belief that if the eye isn’t moving, you are dead, and that art can be used to reflect this.
Throughout the next hour, projections of David Hockney’s work would be displayed on every wall and even sometimes the floor, whilst his voice guided the audience through sixty years of his art. The hour was divided into six different sections in which Hockney would go on to analyse his work and processes.
In my favourite section of the exhibition, the audience is presented with a range of Hockney’s vibrant studies on nature. “Colour is a joyful thing”, he states here, “And I want my art to be joyful”.
Having synaesthesia, Hockney sees colours in response to musical stimuli, which perhaps attributes to his focus on a vibrant colour pallet within his work which evoke unconscious depictions of childhood and the joy that nature produces in many.
In a technology-consumed society, Hockney rather ironically uses advanced technology to communicate the importance of slowing down and looking at nature and the world from different perspectives. His message is clear: the world is beautiful, and the audience is encouraged to look at it not “smaller and far away” but “bigger and closer up”, as the very title of his exhibition implies.
The question isn’t whether or not this experience is strictly “art”, as critics reviewing the show have asked. Rather, it’s an exploration into the way that David Hockney goes about seeing and presenting the world.
From painting and photography to digital drawings and film, David Hockney’s art has a history of pushing the medium of art. His partnership with Lightroom displays his interest in new technology’s relationship to art. I believe that the opportunity to visit Hockney’s Lightroom exhibition was, and is, worth every penny.
All image credits to Maria Hill