On Friday this hamster managed to escape from his treadmill for the day and went up to Nottingham to take a squint at the new Nottingham Contemporary art gallery, and its opening exhibition David Hockney 1960-1968 : a marriage of styles.
The building itself gets more attractive the closer you get to it – from a distance a corrugated iron warehouse, close-to decorated with an intricate lace pattern (the gallery is in the old Lace Market district) – but it is an attractive space (dread word!) with four large airy exhibition rooms, a cinema and a cafe/bar on three different floors. I imagine that, if I lived in Nottingham, I’d be spending a fair amount of time there.
As far as the exhibition goes, writing about art isn’t really my forte, so I won’t make too much effort in that direction. If you are at all interested in Hockney you will know the pictures already, even if you haven’t actually seen them all. The earliest are, as Hockney said
“Partly propaganda of something I felt hadn’t been propagandised … as a subject: homosexuality.”
though it is an oblique kind of propaganda, composed of hints, coded references and visual innuendoes. Moving on and out to Los Angeles the artist and the paintings bloom into something overtly beautiful, though the obliqueness remains (we don’t see who it is who made the bigger splash, just the traces). My favourite in the exhibition is The lawn sprinkler, which I could sit and look at for hours.
The early paintings don’t suggest to me that Hockney was having a great deal of fun at that point in his life, but this little film rather suggests the opposite. It’s an extract from Ken Russell’s 1962 BBC documentary Pop Goes the Easel and features Hockney and various other young British artists twistin’ the night away. Peter Blake looks rather like John Peel doing that funny little dance he used to do on Top of the Pops, Pauline Boty (who’s in there somewhere) has got the hang of it rather better. Hockney himself seems to have invented slam dancing. All of this ought to look quaint, but somehow doesn’t – in fact it’s hard not to feel a little envious.
Apart from inventing slam dancing, Hockney also – if you look closely at this picture – seems to have invented the i-pod (Leonardo, eat your heart out).