An artist that marked me: David Hockney

By Sophie Hannam

The story of an artistic obsession that began in the GCSE art classroom

David Hockney, a British artist focusing on pop art, modern art and cubism, is my artistic god. You will probably recognise him through his recent portrait of Harry Styles in the now iconic fluorescent yellow and red cardigan. To many, this piece serves as the limit to their internal Hockney gallery—a fact that burns a hole through my Hockney-shaped heart. Give his name a quick Google search, however, and watch your screen become flooded with vivid colours adorning a myriad of shapes and figures, many of them the faces of pop icons. An eclectic jungle of beauty.

My infatuation first developed through a rather poor attempt at an Art GCSE, during which, David Hockney cultivated my love for art as a tool to warp reality. Known for his bright colours within almost cartoonish paintings, Hockney plays with the definition of what everyday reality is. The lens of a more colourful and almost fantastical world is something that plays a consistent theme throughout his work, pushing the limits of the world we live in. Instantly I was obsessed, choosing to dedicate the majority of my coursework to this use of colour, mirroring Hockney’s style of expression (or attempting to in spite of the pained looks plastered over my teachers’ faces). Through this, my understanding of the emotional impact of colours on the artwork was solidified. This concept is continuously found within many of Hockney’s self-portraits, using colour to reflect the artist’s relationship with himself. 

But what inspired this twist on reality? How is he able to view the world through such an eccentric light? According to Hockney, his deafness. He has stated in various articles that his lack of hearing has “made him rely more than others on vision,” dramatically increasing sight as a tool to understand the world around. Senses such as this have only become more critical with his age.

The defiance of his “limitations”—if you could call them that—is something that hugely inspired me. I personally have struggled throughout education with a learning disability and as a result, have often felt very inadequate to my peers. I see myself as shut-out-of-a-club that everybody else seems to have inherent access to. Hockney’s adaptation of life to cater for his disability has opened up a new world for him and his art. Triumphs such as these fill me with confidence; the little quirks and changes that have become my personal infrastructure around my disability may allow me to view life externally from the ordinary, perceiving a bewitching reality that others may fail to appreciate. Hey, maybe my GCSE artwork was just subjectively astounding, something that the examiners couldn’t comprehend… or then again, maybe not. 

During the 1960s, Hockney prevailed as a key figurehead in the pop art movement, rebelling against traditional art and incorporating a satirical portrayal of consumerist culture. It wasn’t just within his artistic life that Hockney radicalised the norm, coming out as gay in 1960. It is key to note here that homosexuality was not decriminalised in the UK until 1967. Risking his freedom and his life, David Hockney refused to be anything other than unapologetically himself. As well as the UK justice system, public opinion throughout this time was also intensely homophobic, and I can only imagine the struggles that Hockney was forced to experience.I dread to think about the grey, miserable world I would be forced to exist in if Hockney had not appeared upon my computer screen like a camp, abstract angel Gabriel all of those years ago. I think everyone, regardless of their interest in art, could learn a great deal from his works as well as his life. With the world becoming more depressing and horrifying every day, looking at the electrifying, otherworldly lens of Hockney can only do good things. So please, if this article does anything, let it add an extra search to your Google page. David Hockney.


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