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Looking at the world, in more than one way
HOW do you look at the world? That is the question at the heart of David Hockney: A Matter of Perspective show at STPI.
For its 15th anniversary, the gallery is presenting for its annual special exhibition 36 works by Britain's most celebrated living artist, largely drawn from Singapore's National Collection.
This follows a number of critical international Hockney exhibitions in recent years, including a retrospective at Tate Britain that showcased his work across six decades, which closed in May.
These exhibitions have illustrated the breadth of the artist's oeuvre, which spans a multitude of mediums and styles. They show Hockney's explorations in painting, drawing, photomontage and digital painting.
Uniting different strands
The STPI show continues the dialogue around Hockney's work, exploring his experimentations in printmaking, framed by the concept of perspective. It is the act of looking that unites the many different strands of Hockney's practice. He observes the places and people around him, probing and playing with ways of capturing what is seen in three dimensions in two-dimensional forms.
The exhibition opens with The Perspective Lesson (1985), which expresses this idea. A drawing of a chair, depicted using the principles of perspective central to Western art, hangs in the background crossed out, while Hockney captures the same chair again in the foreground.
This time, the chair is portrayed as if the viewer was walking around the chair, observing it from back to front, from left to right, from top to bottom and then back again.
It is rendered in vivid yellow, set against a floor of criss-crossing blue and grey lines, instilling a sense of dynamism and movement to an otherwise static portrait.
This early experimentation with the moving focus of the human eye becomes the groundwork for the three sections of the exhibition, where Hockney explores this idea in portraiture, interiors and still lifes and exteriors and landscapes.
The portraiture section features friends and family, including a particularly evocative series of three works of the artist's mother considered from different styles and angles. Together, the works give a sense of the artist's intimate relationship with his mother, and also of her personality.
The interiors section energetically reimagines staid domestic scenes, injecting them with a vibrancy and vitality that make visitors curious to rediscover their own familiar surroundings.
The Hotel Acatlan series that Hockney made of a hotel courtyard in Mexico is the centrepiece of the exteriors section. The series comprises long lithographs depicting the courtyard's cloisters from shifting angles. Walking through the long, narrow space that the works are exhibited in, the visitor appreciates that Hockney's moving viewpoint mirrors their own encounter with the works.
Beyond just featuring works that thematically reflect this idea, the exhibition itself is a matter of perspective, inviting viewers to explore the connections between works in ways beyond the simple divide of the three sections in the exhibition.
The striking portrait, An Image of Celia (1984), is one of the first works that catches the eye of visitors walking into the gallery. On first impression, the lithograph and screen print collage recalls Picasso's Cubist portraits with its fragmentary perspective. The seated figure of Celia appears to have two faces, as if the sitter was looking into a mirror.
However, closer inspection reveals its connections with other works in the exhibition as one of Celia's faces in red recalls Red Celia (1985) hanging diagonally across in the back wall of the space. The chair that Celia sits on evokes Number One Chair (1986) hanging opposite.
Works such as this invite visitors to take a closer look. They highlight how we perceive and process the world around us, as we pick up visual cues that become etched in our minds.
It is these fragments that eventually help us piece together our experiences, both in real time and in our memories.
- David Hockney: A Matter of Perspective is on till Sept 9 at STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery