David Hockney’s ‘Early Reflections’ – Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (Homotopia Festival)
From a tender age I have been force-fed works of art from popular and iconic artists like a bad case of déjà vu. Cautiously enter: David Hockney.
Typically, such worn-out, tired artworks have permeated my education and life (namely those god awful, generic prints found in commercial art shops and student dorms). So I’ll admit I did not experience any significant trouser movement when confronted with the thought of going to yet another Hockney exhibition. But these ‘brand name artists’ are famous for a reason; what is often forgotten is the talent behind the famous face. Although I am familiar with Hockney’s work, I was stunned at what a technically talented draughtsman Hockney actually is -creating sexy and provocative portraiture with just a few simple marks.
As part of the Homotopia festival’s 10th anniversary, the iconic Yorkshire-born artist, David Hockney presents a revealing and rare glimpse into his work throughout the early 1960s, depicting a personal and blossoming sexual discovery. Homotopia is an international festival based in Liverpool that celebrates LGBT culture, featuring work from icons such as Hockney, Boy George, John Waters and April Ashley. In a world where self-expression is still not universal for all members of the LGBT community, it is important to remember why the celebration and embracing of LGBT culture is relevant to the arts today.
The festival’s artistic director, Gary Everett comments that the Homotopia festival “is in stark contrast to LGBT Russians who have witnessed retrogressive laws banning queer cultural expression introduced in Russia and a huge increase in violent homophobia. I believe it makes our work supporting and commissioning gay artists increasingly important.”
Hockney’s focus on the homoerotic may not be considered shocking by contemporary standards but, as homosexuality was only decriminalised in England by 1967, Hockney can be thanked for a daring contribution to the recognised place of homosexuality in art today. The artist even openly stated his intent for his bold depictions of the homoerotic which publicize homosexual male desire: “for something that hadn’t been propagandized: homosexuality. I felt it should be done.”
The exhibition is evidence of Hockney’s versatile artistic skill, taking advantage of a wide variety of mediums. Hockney’s images float with a delicate, dreamlike line that contrasts with the often explicit subject, the many prints and paintings capture fleeting experiences and sexual encounters.
All in all, Hockney presents a highly personal exploration of his struggle with sexuality and intimate experiences in a very witty and sensitive way. There is a movement and energy in the artist’s early work that have a photographic element; perhaps an indication of his more accomplished photography to come. A particular highlight was the award winning and distinctively Hockney-ish, ‘Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool’. (John Moore’s Painting Prize – 1967). This cheeky nude is a stand out piece and just oozes sensuality.
Hockney inspires new generations of LGBT artists, (now including myself) helping to spark an artistic sexual revolution with his brave and unforgiving declaration of his sexuality. Even if you aren’t interested in Hockney, there is no denying that this particular body of his work represents an important step forward for the LGBT community in the arts.
Hockney’s ‘Early Reflections’ at the Walker Gallery, Liverpool runs until March ’14 (Free Admission). For more information about Homotopia and the events of the festival, help support this fantastic arts festival and check out their website: