I didn’t mention it, but last Friday I went to the Lucian Freud exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, then today followed up with David Hockney at the RA. Both were absolutely bursting at the seams with people. I loathe crowds but once I got in the rhythm of dodging in between, I absolutely loved both.
The thing that struck me most was the incredible vision – and I mean that literally – the ability to really, really see. In Freud’s case, it feels as though he saw into people’s very souls – including his own. In Self Portrait Reflection, it’s as though he’s almost looking his own mortality in the face. These are no traditional portraits – he only painted people who interested him. The time he took over every brushstroke is evident. But most of all, as a writer, I was blown away by his capacity for capturing character.
I’d heard mixed verdicts on the Hockney show, so approached it with an open mind. At first, the trees at Thixendale overwhelmed me, and I was dubious I was going to enjoy it, but the deeper in I got, the more impressed I became. The exuberance of the work, the passion for the countryside, and his ability to see it – really, really see it – often painting the same (superficially uninspiring) scene over and over again, each time showing something different about its intrinsic beauty. I was also knocked out by his mastery of so many media, his transition between styles, his ability to paint small or large (very large) and his evident self belief. I could hear lots of mutterings from the onlookers in the Hawthorn room. “It looks nothing like a bloody hawthorn” or “He’s gone a bit over the top there”. It seemed to me though that he’d perfectly captured the brief but exuberant invasion of these flowers. It was as if the hedgerows were participants in a crazy carnival party – that perhaps you can only see if you watch for long enough, as he did.
I was very impressed by his work on the ipad. Inspiring! I have the same Brushes app on mine but have found it very hard to produce anything other than clumsy daubs. Here are a couple I did of Munnar, where my next book is set. As you can see there is a certain lack of precision evident! Mr Hockney uses a stylus – so I’ll have to investigate that option before completely giving up on it.
The one on the left is the tea plantations drawn from memory and the one on the right is an ipad version of a watercolour painting I did of the river in Munnar. Awful!