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HAPPENINGText: Alma Reyes

Among the delightful portraits exhibited, the popular Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-71), also in immense scale of about three meters wide, represents dress designer Ossie Clark, his fabric designer wife Celia Birtwell and their cat Percy. The observer’s viewpoint is caught beguilingly between the two personages not glancing at each other, but at the painter (in this case, himself), while the cat alone peers out the window. The balcony silhouette acts as the central point of the picture that separates the subjects. The cat’s indifference towards the couple and surroundings, Ossie seated instead of his wife, and the hollow division between the couple symbolized by the open window all suggest an unsuccessful marriage.

David Hockney, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-71, Tate: Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1971 © David Hockney

Hockney employs such symbolic clues as well in My Parents (1977), painted with the charm of nostalgia and calmness. Imbibing both art and life, the picture captures the artist’s father Kenneth buried in reading as obvious to his son, and his mother Laura, facing the artist more attentively. Hockney pours radiant light on her from the left, giving her warmth. Reflected on the mirror between them is a postcard of Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ, suggesting the parents’ Christian belief. On the bottom shelf of the green cabinet at the center is a book on the 18th-century French painter Jean Baptiste Chardin, who was known for painting scenes of domestic life. Not to be missed is the gallery of solo portraits, including the artist’s own, Self Portrait, 10th December 2021 (2021) in his typical plaid suit ensemble, and Bruno Mars (2018), among other known personalities.

Installation view of the exhibition “David Hockney” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 2023. 25th June 2022, Looking at the Flowers (Framed), 2022. Collection of the artist © David Hockney assisted by Jonathan Wilkinson, Photo: Alma Reyes

As Hockney often injects intrigue and surprise into his works by uniquely incorporating double or multiplex visions, the giant photographic drawing 25th June 2022, Looking at the Flowers (Framed) (2022) surely pulls the viewer’s attention. Surveying twenty floral paintings spread over a navy blue wall are two images of Hockney, seated in two dissimilar chairs on the left and right. The artist defies the boundaries between time and space by designing a setting that can be both familiar and abstract to the audience. He explains, “I had been doing what I called photographic drawings, giving a much more 3D effect. This is because you have to look at these through time (unlike an ordinary photograph which you see all at once).

Installation view of the exhibition “David Hockney” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 2023. In the Studio, December 2017, 2017. © David Hockney assisted by Jonathan Wilkinson, Photo: Alma Reyes

Finally, encapsulating the entirety of Hockney’s existence is another photographic drawing In the Studio, December 2017 (2017), printed on seven sheets of paper, and mounted on seven sheets of Dibond. Hockney stands proudly in the center, encircled by his artworks in his Hollywood Hills studio. Using photogrammetry technique, the works were photographed at different angles, then digitally analyzed and integrated to generate 3D computer graphics. Collating more than 3,000 photographs for this piece, Hockney has succeeded in traversing multiple perspectives by stepping beyond a commonplace, fixed standpoint. This approach is also evident in the dynamic collages, such as photographs taken at Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Walking in the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Feb. 1983; and the Cubist-styled etching portfolio The Blue Guitar from the 1970s, which employed Picasso’s printer’s method.

Always challenged by novel ideas and daring possibilities, Hockney offers us radical ways of seeing the world, combatting stagnation, and confronting inexorable changes in life.

David Hockney
Date: July 15th – November 5th, 2023
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18:00 (Tickets available until 30 minutes before closing.)
Closed on Mondays (except September 17, October 9) and September 19, October 10
Place: Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
Address: 4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Tel: +81 (0)50 5541 8600 (Hello Dial)

*This exhibition is held only at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo and has not been and will not be traveling in Japan or overseas.

Text: Alma Reyes

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