A Bigger Message
2010

A Bigger Message

At The Frick Collection in New York, Hockney is intrigued by Claude Lorrain’s The Sermon on the Mount, painted c. 1656. The picture has become particularly dark with age, and Hockney obtains a high-resolution file from the museum and performs a digital cleaning on the computer: [NESTED]“I did it quite thoroughly, not covering anything up but revealing more and more. I followed his brushstrokes.” He then completes eleven paintings of the subject in various styles, leading to a version in his own, an assemblage of 30 canvases. Enormous in scale, at 15 by 24 feet, it is called A Bigger Message.

It was mostly the space in the picture that attracted me. I knew it was called The Sermon on the Mount, but if you just see the painting, its subject is not that obvious. It’s very dark, you don’t see the figures clearly. What you do see is something that appears to be like an island rising out of the land.

It was mostly the space in the picture that attracted me. I knew it was called The Sermon on the Mount, but if you just see the painting, its subject is not that obvious. It’s very dark, you don’t see the figures clearly. What you do see is something that appears to be like an island rising out of the land.

The Sermon on the Mount I (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount II (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount III (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount IV (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount V (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount VI (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount VII (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount VIII (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount IX (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount X (after Claude)
The Sermon on the Mount XI (after Claude)
'The Sermon on the Mount' Study
A Bigger Message, 2010

It is a picture about looking up, which rather fascinated me .... The people in the painting are gazing at someone giving a sermon on a hill. You’ve got the focus of interest halfway up in the sky.

Hockney painting "A Bigger Message"

Buys first iPad

Hockney buys one of the first iPads upon its release by Apple in April, excited by its larger screen relative to the iPhone’s. Once the Brushes app [NESTED]is mastered, he uses it to draw the landscape directly from the motif, en plein air, including Yosemite National Park.

Untitled No. 2 from "The Yosemite Suite", 2010
Untitled No. 2 from "The Yosemite Suite", 2010
Hockney drawing with his iPad, Photo by Jonathan Wilkinson

I assumed the drawings could be more complicated .... It took me some months to learn the techniques, but by then I knew how to get anything I wanted, almost. It’s a superb medium for some things. Turner would have loved it. You can be very, very subtle with transparent layers. The light changes quickly here so you have to choose how you want to depict it. I realized how fast I can capture it with the iPad, a lot faster than watercolors for example.

Untitled No. 1 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 2 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 3 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 4 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 5 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 6 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 7 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 8 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 9 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 10 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 11 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 12 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 13 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 14 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 15 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 16 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 17 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 18 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 19 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 20 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 21 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 22 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 23 from "The Yosemite Suite"
Untitled No. 24 from "The Yosemite Suite"

Creates first multi-camera movie

Back in Bridlington, Hockney turns his attention to video work. With the technical assistance of Jonathan Wilkinson, Hockney devises a method of using multiple cameras to record a single scene.[NESTED] He records one long take from a moving car using nine cameras to make nine movies, and then exhibits it as a singular work of art on nine synchronized monitors.

Hockney directs "Seven Yorkshire Landscapes"
Hockney directs "Seven Yorkshire Landscapes"
Woldgate Woods, Winter, 2010

We built a frame to hold the cameras on the front of a jeep, and all the wire from them fed into the monitors I was looking at. We drove as slow as possible, J-P got very good at it, almost keeping a steady five miles an hour for an hour or so. We knew the optimum lighting conditions for every nearby road in any direction.

There’s a drawing base to this. It’s a matter of making a coherent space. These cameras are all pointing in different directions, some upwards. But you’ve got to think of all the images relating on a flat surface. After a while, I realized that with this technique you could not only draw in space, you could draw in time ... because it’s a different time in this corner and that, when you look from one to the other you look through time. I think we see that way anyway—we do see in bits, and link one bit with another bit and another bit. The time makes the space somehow.

Exhibitions

Solo

  • More Drawing in a Printing Machine, L.A. Louver, Venice, CA (Apr 8-May 8).
  • Fleurs fraîches—Dessins sur iPhone et iPad, Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent, Paris (Oct 20, 2010–Jan 30, 2011); travels to Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (Oct 8, 2011–Jan 1, 2012); catalogue.

Group

  • Colour in Art, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (Feb 5–Jun 13).
  • Changing Soil: Contemporary Landscape Painting, Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Japan (Apr 24–Sep 12).
  • Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London (Jun 14–Aug 22).
  • Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Jun 25–Sep 19); catalogue.
  • The Artist’s Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (Sep 19, 2010–Jan 31, 2011).
  • Gray Collection: Seven Centuries of Art, Art Institute of Chicago (Sep 25, 2010–Jan 2, 2011); catalogue.
  • Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. (Oct 20, 2010–Feb 13, 2011); travels to Brooklyn Museum, New York; catalogue.