True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney

Weschler and Hockney (2008)

Photographing time

the reason you can’t look at a photograph for a long time is because there’s virtually no time in it. p.7

I mean photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed cyclops—for a split second. But that’s not what it’s like to live in the world or to convey the experience of living in the world. p.6

Hockney was drawn to photo collage because he could portray time as a collection of moments. In his drawings and paintings, time is layered onto the image as a series of edits and refinements.

Drawing with the wrong tool

The camera is an extraordinary drawing tool. It’s as if I, like most ordinary photographers, had previously been taking part in some long-established culture in which pencils were used only for making dots—there’s an obvious sense of liberation that comes when you realize you can make lines! p.14

A shift in his perception about the tool he was using unlocked a new sense of imagination about what he could capture and portray with it. Augmenting his tools with the power of time.

Painting space

The camera, although people think it sees everything in front of it, cannot see the main thing we get excited about in front of us, which is space. The camera cannot see it. Only human beings maybe, or anyway only living beings, can see space.” p.53

the cubists performed an exquisite critique of photography; they showed that there were certain aspects of looking — basically the human reality of perception — that photography couldn’t convey, and that you still needed the painter’s hand or eye to convey them. p.50

David Hockney - Woldgate Woods II, 16 - 17 May (2006) David Hockney - Woldgate Woods II, 16 - 17 May (2006)

David Hockney - Woldgate Woods, 30 March – 21 April (2006) David Hockney - Woldgate Woods, 30 March — 21 April (2006)

I am painting with my whole body. And the painting itself is addressing you in your entire body: it is big enough to be doing so. You can feel it. And that’s the point: out there in the world but here as well, space is a feeling.” p.212

There is a reciprocal relationship between the artist and viewer’s act of observation with the artwork. Hockney’s work examines this relationship against the backdrop of space and time.

Art takes two

For something to be seen, it has to be looked at by somebody, and any true and real depiction should be an account of the experience of that looking.” p.66

There are two observations at play in the interaction between artist, artwork, and observer. The first is the artist’s observation of a subject or idea. This observation transmutes attention into an object. The second is the viewer’s observation of the art. This observation transmutes the object back into attention.

Art as research

All of this work is undertaken in a spirit of research. I’m not so much interested in the mere objects I’m creating as in where they’re taking me, and all the work in all the different media is part of that inquiry and part of that search. p.61

David Hockney - Merced River, Yosemite Valley (1982) David Hockney - Merced River, Yosemite Valley (1982)

Weschler, Lawrence, and David Hockney. 2008. True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney. Berkeley: University of California Press.