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Critical Review

A lesser known aspect of Hockney’s oeuvre, his Abstractions are a series of prints that explore the compositions of bright, often clashing colours. Many of these works date from the ’90s when the artist was exploring more abstract compositions in bright, often clashing, colours. This style can also be found in the series entitledSome New Prints which originated from his Some Very New Paintings series of 1992. Here his colourful compositions recall those of modernists such as Sonia Delaunay as well as his contemporary Howard Hodgkin. The works in this series are often compared to the sets he made for operas and the artist himself has confirmed the link, stating, “I started the group called Some Very New Paintings in 1992 after I had finished my set designs for Die Frau Ohne Schatten. These started simply and grew more and more complex. I soon realized that what I was doing was making internal landscapes, using different marks and textures to create space, so that the viewer wanders around.”

We see those internal landscapes in full swing in his Snails Pace series which were born from an installation he made for the Smithsonian Art Museum. After multiple commissions to design sets and costumes for both the opera and theatre Hockney put this experience to use to create a visual experience that recalled these productions but was devoid of sound, reflecting the artist’s own recent loss of hearing. Made of two painted boards, one placed on the wall and one on the floor, Hockney created an immersive experience, complete with three dimensional objects that can be seen in photographs such as First Detail, Snails Pace, March 27th 1995 and Fifth Detail, Snails Pace, March 27th 1995. The set is an almost psychedelic rendering of landscape, with natural forms exaggerated and reimagined to create a fantastical and disorientating experience that was heightened by an accompanying light show.