Sunday, 25 March 2012

Hockney, Trees and Tablet Computers. And a Story About a Bus Journey.

Yesterday I went to see the David Hockney exhibition and it was pretty interesting. I didn't like it as much as the portraits one from a few years back, but I'd say that's more to do with me liking faces more than pictures of trees. Actually this is a complete lie, the real reason I liked the portraits one more was because there were lots of male nudes. Pictures such as 'Naked Guy Getting Out of a Pool' (1966) is always going to have an edge over 'Some Trees' (2008) for me at least. Although I will applaud him for making some effort to appease me by including a bit of film featuring some male ballet dancers jumping about in tights.

Anyway, there were a few old paintings from way back when, which were there to show how he's always been fascinated by landscapes but it was mostly focused on the changing English countryside and different light conditions through the seasons. There were a few paintings where he'd returned to the same scene in different months of the year and some where over the same few days he'd done both a painting in the morning and a painting in the evening. Some of them were really quick field sketches and some he'd done in his studio from memory, and 'let his imagination run free'. All I can say is, he definitely found a few shrooms as he was traipsing through the countryside. Trees aren't purple.

Hockney is obviously a creative genius, master draftsman and all-round total babe, and it's really cool he's still so busy and trying out new things. Like drawing on a shiny tablet computer that I will not refer to by name. (I could pretend my refusal to name such a device is an attempt at BBC-style brand neutrality, but it's really cos I hate it with a passion and don't want there to be another page mentioning it on the internet.) These drawings were blown up and printed really big on paper. They were obviously good drawings but I didn't like the medium. And this isn't due to some bizarre vendetta against Apple, it's because the lines were all a horribly uniform thickness.

If you expected to find this post entertaining, look away now cos I want to make a geeky point. The computer thing he was using has no pressure sensitivity so unlike using a wacom pad on a proper computer you can't have lines with varying thicknesses, so it's completely inappropriate as a paintbrush substitute. It would be fine if you're using it to imitate something like a fineliner or a really sharp pencil if you're doing a line drawing, but when you use it to imitate a paintbrush it comes out looking kinda horrible. If you want to draw the branch of a tree with one brushstroke it will look all wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

There were drawings documenting the onset of the spring, and they were arranged in chronological order. It was interesting to see how his technique changed as he adjusted to his new drawing tool. I liked them until I looked at them too closely. My advice to anyone going to the exhibition is to stand as far away from them as possible, and squint a bit. That way you can't tell they aren't real paintings.

There was also a video installation where he'd driven really slow round the countryside with nine cameras on his car. I liked this a lot, and I think all hospitals should play it in their waiting rooms. Although admittedly it might not be the best way to spend NHS money. I now realise I've made a suggestion that would only ever be taken up by private hospitals, which sort of compromises my socialist principles. Damn.

Anyway, I found it interesting overall, and if you want to read a slightly more coherent review of it, I would suggest you read this one.

Accompanying me on my trip was my mother, and seeing as we were so close to Soho and I thought it would be funny, I insisted she let me take her for a drink in a gay pub. She also thought this would be fun and we came up with a brief specification for somewhere to drink: reasonably quiet and with somewhere to sit. In the end this yielded no results but we settled on the Admiral Duncan seeing as neither of us had ever been there and it's a bit famous after it got nailbombed in the nineties. As we entered I got asked for my ID which I don't usually find insulting, but I did this time on behalf of my mother because I felt like the door guy was accusing her of trying to take an underage boy into a bar full of screaming queens. Crappy dance music from the mid-noughties was playing and the wine wasn't very cold. I don't know if it's cos it was a hot day or something, but my mum got really really drunk after one glass of wine. 

We got a bus towards St Pancras and sat on the top deck whilst having a bit of a girly chat about ex-boyfriends. My mother was talking some guy who'd managed to impress her once by being a bit 'edgy' and 'interesting'. 

"He wasn't even attractive. He was an ugly thing. And he was Irish," she said. Now, my mother is half-Irish and had a turbulent relationship with her crazy Irish mother, so it's become a bit of a joke in the family that my she now hates the Irish, which is a semi-acceptable pretend prejudice to nurture for comic effect when you're in your own home, but you might want to tone it down on a crowded London bus. But my mother wasn't exactly sober, and a tipsy Mrs Oakley doesn't mince her words.

Also not exactly sober was the guy sat immediately behind us, who was what you might describe as 'a drunk', in the old skool sense. He was also Irish. I heard him muttering under his breath, a sort of husky, smoky slur. "What's she saying ... Irish ... who does she think she is" type stuff, barely audible. Not audible at all to my mother (who was in full flow), but I could just about hear him. I'm not sure if he knew I could hear him or not. 

From his point of view I could see why he was pissed off at my mum but by the time I'd noticed we were already on another topic and I reasoned that it wouldn't be worth trying to steer the conversation towards getting my mum to retract the sentiment expressed. My mum doesn't really hate Irish people, but I didn't want to interrupt the conversation just to get her to clear this up. We were also chatting a bit about my ex-boyfriends and this didn't escape the notice of Drunk Irish Man, or as I will now refer to him, Drunk Irish Homophobe. 

Mutterings assumed a slant of "gay boy ... disgusting gay boy ... fucking disgusting gay boy ... who does she think she is with her gay son", etc. My mother isn't exactly deaf but I was gradually realising that her hearing is not as sharp as mine. She had no idea he was speaking. And she didn't until she asked me what was causing me to be in complete hysterics as we walked off the bus.

Overall a fun day. If you wanna go see the Hockney exhibit then hurry cos it's closing in a couple of weeks. If you want to skip the really long queue then go to Cass Art by Trafalgar Square and buy something. They'll give you a barcode on your receipt you can scan and you also get a pound off entry. Cheers guys.

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