Brushing aside digital art

Brushing aside digital art

Junior reporter Alex Wong reviews artist David Hockney's oil and digital paintings - and is not too impressed

David Hockney's long-anticipated exhibition, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, is a major letdown. Hockney was a high-profile English painter in the British pop art movement in the '60s. But A Bigger Picture is an exhibit of his more recent works, from 2004 to last year.

The works are based on his observations, memories and imaginative visions of landscapes across Britain and the US. He uses a wide variety of media including good-old oils and even iPad prints.

Critics have hailed the exhibition, which ends in April, but most of his paintings fail to make an impression. The artist seems to have put too much focus on quantity instead of quality.

Watercolour paintings of Yorkshire explode with vivid colours, but they fail to convey the subtlety of tones of British landscapes. He may paint from his own cheerful vision of pink foliage and green roads, but it hardly resonates. His intensive use of bright hues also doesn't work.

Hockney's brushwork is rough and unpolished - as though he were painting with a sense of urgency. In an interview, he admitted to rushing his work, because he wanted to capture the fleeting scenes of changing seasons.

The result is a collection an art student might be proud of, but isn't ready for display.

None of it justified my GBP14 (HK$170) admission, nor my one-hour wait in the cold.

Hockney does show artistic insight on landscape painting. He has inspiring ideas that might truly be revolutionising if they were pushed beyond boundaries.

For example, Pearblossom Highway (from April 1986) is a collage of hundreds of Polaroid photos. It creates the illusion that the road is leading the viewer into the picture, with Hockney's unique vision of fractures and division of space. This painting, along with ones featuring tunnels, succeeds in engaging viewers, inviting them to step into and experience the dramatic landscapes.

His child-like and cartoony attitude persists and establishes his quirky aesthetics.

Even though I didn't like the iPad drawings, I do admire Hockney's readiness to learn about new forms of art. Hockney, 70, was one of Britain's earliest adopters of the iPad and its drawing capabilities. He made an attempt to master this new toy, but unfortunately art and digital shouldn't mix.

The iPad and other computers produce work that is too uniform, cold and unexpressive for the visual arts.

IPad "art" is gimmicky, though seemingly intuitive, and its blunt lines suggest a lack of inspiration. The tool will probably not develop to be a sustainable medium that artists will relate with.

The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (pictured) comprises repetitive and predictable prints that expose the rigidness and the fixed formula of the technology.

Call me old fashioned if you like. But for me, art will always be about the brush and the canvas.

Alex is studying in Britain

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