Abstractions David Hockney
Find out more about David Hockney’s abstractions, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
One of the lesser known parts of Hockney’s oeuvres, his series of abstract prints nonetheless offer a fascinating insight into his influences and unique way of seeing the world. 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 entitled Some 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.
Works such as Painted Environment take this exploration of performance further by presenting us with a doubling that reminds us of earlier prints such as A Hollywood Collection where a trompe l’oeil effect aims to (overtly) trick the viewer, presenting a play within a play effect. Here a bright canvas is shown on its easel against a backdrop of a similar design, asking us to question the relationship between painting and performance and consider where the boundary of an image lies.
Prints such as White Lines Dancing In Printing Ink and Untitled For Joel Wachs see him playing with abstraction in a more traditional way, using lithography to achieve a painterly effect with ink. Here he plays with line and brush, adding bold plains of colour and eschewing his usual compositions of interiors or portraits and yet it is hard not to find a figurative element to his swirls and curves which become both characters and plumes of smoke in the imagination. Similarly works such as Eine and Tres show the influence of the modernist style on Hockney’s work, recalling Cubist painting with its mixed perspectives and dynamic composition.
Why is the abstractions series so important?
These works offer an insight into the often overlooked abstract elements of Hockney’s work and the evolution of his oeuvre since he began making prints in the 60s. Here we see him boldly playing with colour and composition to once again completely reinvent himself.
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