Hockney v Hirst: Let battle commence.

‘A Bigger Picture’ is a slight, if interesting look, at the painter David Hockney. It focuses on his return to his native Yorkshire to paint a series of landscapes that form part of the recent exhibition of his work at the Royal Academy.

I had wanted to see this show when I was over in London but tickets were sold out which goes to show the immense popularity of this art world titan.

The landscapes in this latest series are influenced by Chinese scrolls, which unlike western art, try to see a scene from no fixed point of view. Hockney points out the Chinese idea is more like the way we truly see; with our eye constantly moving across the landscape, scanning it .The unrolling of the scroll kind of mimics this action.

Indeed to continue the oriental theme, Hockney repeats a Chinese dictum which states to create great art you need “an eye, a hand an and a heart”, before adding ‘Two out of three wont do’. As the film continues we see this not just a neat quote about his own work but also a not so subtle attack at rivals like Damien Hirst.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole film is when the film maker Bruno Wollhiem, almost mischievously shows Hockney’s latest work to Hirst, the great pretender to Hockney’s greatest living artist throne.

Almost the first words out of Hirst’s mouth are ‘well I wouldn’t want to own one’ before begrudgingly admitting that they ‘work.’ He naturally notices the presence of death in the work (not surprising for an artist obsessed with the subject) but describes the images as ‘annoyingly dark’.

It’s a great example of the ego of the artist when confronted with another talented practitioner. Not that Hockney is a man lacking in a healthy self-regard.

He has a go at Hirst by creating a poster to advertise his own work entitled ‘A Bigger Sensation’, a sly dig at the Sensation exhibition from the late nineties that Hirst took part in.

It all seems very stage-managed; as if both artists like two boxers mouthing off before a fight, know that such a showdown only adds to their own reputations

It’s Ali versus Frazier all over again …but with paintbrushes.


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