“If your eyes stop moving, you’re dead,” says David Hockney.
The famous British artist – best known for his contribution to the pop art movement of the 1960s – takes his painting in a new direction in David Hockney: A Bigger Picture.
Filmed, directed and produced by Bruno Wollheim, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture follows Hockney as he returns to his roots in rural England. Approaching his 70s, and seemingly aware of his own mortality, Hockney has returned to his family’s home in Yorkshire, where he sets out to capture his unique vision of the countryside.
Vivid colours leap through Hockney’s paintings, giving a sense of intensity and beauty to his work. Wollheim successfully integrates these images into the film and uses the paintings to help narrate the story. While some of his older work does appear, the film focuses on his more recent creations.
Filmed over three years, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture gives an intimate view of the artist. Hockney’s quick wit and boyish nature make him an entertaining subject, while his ability to find wonderment in seemingly ordinary landscapes draws the viewer in.
A major component of the film is Hockney’s attacks on the limitations of photography. He believes that artists in the West present the world in “photographic terms” and he hopes to help change this. He says we are entering a post-photographic age where the superiority of photographic expression is being challenged. Hockney is a fighter, and is referred to by the narrator as “a man at war with the whole direction of Western art.”
Wollheim lets Hockney’s own words carry the film. The narration is limited, and there are only a few brief interviews with other people. In one segment, Wollheim films renowned artist Damien Hirst analyzing Hockney’s recent paintings. This insert is an interesting, but unnecessary, addition to the documentary.
Hockney is an artist in a state of self-reinvention, and therefore provides no concrete ending to the documentary. The film covers the most productive and sustained period of work in Hockney’s entire career. In it he manages to create the largest painting ever made outdoors, but by the end returns to tampering with photography. “Never believe what an artist says, only what they do,” says Hockney when asked about using the camera again.
The film focuses on a very specific period of time in Hockney’s life. For those unfamiliar with the artist, it may not be the best place to start learning about him. It is the reinvention of his work that makes this story stand out. For fans of Hockney, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture provides an interesting view not only of his recent art, but also the inner workings of his mind.
David Hockney: A Bigger Picture will be screened March 20 at 9 p.m. and March 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the MusÃ©e d’art Contemporain and March 28 at 1:30 p.m at Concordia University’s J.A De SÃ¨ve Cinema.