Sian 15-23 is a signed photographic print by venerated British artist, David Hockney. Part of the artist’s Photographs collection, it was produced in 1981 during a trip the artist made to China. This print is a photograph of a countryside scene, as viewed through a bamboo blind.
Like other images in the Photographs collection, such as Wuxi 35-9, Wuxi 45-7 and Wuxi 40-12, Sian 15-23 was created during a trip Hockney made to China in 1981. Accompanied by the English writer and poet, Stephen Spender, and friend, onetime partner and curator, Gregory Evans, Hockney used his travels in China to mark a considered return to the camera – a medium he has used extensively as both a visual guide for his paintings and as a means to challenge static and unifocal modes of representation, as in his Photo Collages series. Here, the artist makes a single, unifocal image of the kind he had often criticised as being static and too bound up in a rigid perception of time. In essence, the singular photograph is here rather more an expression of practicality than an artistic choice rooted in philosophy. The camera and the watercolour, he argued, were media that allowed him to continue making artworks in an otherwise busy travel schedule. Sian 15-23 features a bucolic country scene and a muted allusion to its Chinese setting, with an example of Chinese pavilion architecture visible in the top right-hand corner of the print. Viewed through a bamboo blind, cross-hatched lines act as an overlay, shifting the realistic scene into a playful evocation of Hockney’s etchings. Images captured and painted during Hockney’s trip to Chinas were compiled in the volume China Diary, compiled in 1982, and co-authored by Spender.