Forget the canvas: Celebrated British painter David Hockney embraces the iPad
British artist David Hockney is seen at the Pierre Berge foundation, in Paris, Monday Oct. 18, 2010. Canvas is just so 20th century. That’s the lesson of David Hockney’s new Paris exhibition, where glowing i-Pad and i-Phones _ their screens a changing medley of still lives and landscapes made by the celebrated British artist on the "Brushes" application, replace traditional canvases. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
PARIS — Canvas is just so 20th century.
That’s the message of David Hockney’s new Paris exhibition, where glowing iPads and iPhones — their screens a changing medley of still lives and landscapes created by the celebrated British artist on the "Brushes" application — replace traditional canvases.
Dozens of the apparatuses are bolted onto the walls, their flat screens aglow with drawings of jagged mountains, sombre interiors and bouquets of flowers in eyepopping colours.
The show takes its name, "Fleurs fraiches" or "Fresh Flowers," from the still lives of bouquets, which feature vases full of dusty pink roses, purple tulips and butter-yellow lilies.
It’s also a wink at the digital age immediacy of the exhibit, which will be updated periodically with new images — or fresh flowers — emailed by Hockney from "wherever in the world he happens to be," said curator Charlie Scheips.
The show, which opens to the public on Wednesday at Paris’ Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, grew out of the digital doodlings Hockney started sending his family and friends following his 2008 purchase of an iPhone.
"David’s hard of hearing and he got the phone to text people, and then he discovered ‘Brushes,’" the iPhone application that allows users to use their fingers like paintbrushes, Scheips told The Associated Press. "It started out as something that was strictly about communication, not about art."
But it quickly grew into a serious artistic endeavour. Over the past year and a half, Hockney has made more than 1,000 drawings, first on his iPhone and then on the larger iPad, Scheips said.
"He would lie in bed and draw what he was seeing — the scenes out his window, his desk, or more often than not, the bouquet on his bedside table," the curator said. "And then he would email the latest drawings on to friends."
A video in the darkened exhibition hall shows Hockney at work, his fingers gliding expertly over his iPad and changing colours and brush strokes on the application’s virtual palette.
The most interesting and innovative aspect of the exhibit are the six animated pieces that show Hockney’s creative process in fast motion. A still life of a desk sprouts books and papers, which disappear or change positions as Hockney draws over and changes them. A potted cactus grows multicolored needles as viewers look on.
Hockney was born in 1937 in England, where he studied at the Royal College of Art. He first gained renown in the early 1960s as a member of the Pop Art movement. He’s known for his paintings and drawings, which show the influence of artists such as Matisse and Picasso, but also for his multifaceted photo collages.
Asked how the art world has reacted to Hockney’s embrace of new technology, Scheips said the jury was still out.
"Besides the 20 or 30 people who get his emails, this work has never been see before," he said.
"Fleurs fraiches" runs through Jan. 30.
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