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In conversation with David Hockney.



Charlie Scheips, a friend and associate of David Hockney and curator of Fresh Flowers, chatted with the artist at the ROM on October 19, 2011.

Charlie Scheips: David, you've been experimenting with different technologies and different printing methods for many years. What led you to the iPad?

David Hockney: I've always argued that artists have always used technology. I mean a brush is technology, pencils are technology. Picture-making things--artists will always use them.

CS: I think there is a misconception that you have abandoned traditional methods of making images for the iPad ... but I think people will see that it's not about abandoning anything, it's still about the act of drawing, the act of looking.

DH: Well, you know, I began drawing on an iPhone just as a novelty at first. But when you've done 300 drawings on it, you realize that it's a body of work. And I realized as well that it was a rather good new medium, fast actually.

CS: The spontaneity of it--talk about that a little bit.

DH: I'd drawn on a computer first in the '80s I think, but it was a bit slow. And any draftsman is interested in speed because there's a great deal to be gained in it. If you think of Rembrandt drawings, and I admire Rembrandt drawings enormously, you can see these are drawn quite fast. But to draw in colour fast is a lot less easy.

I was going to make a big work depicting the arrival of spring in little paintings. But in January I took the iPad and I started drawing ... It turned out to be a great medium for this, very good for recording such subtle changes ... You could capture winter light, for instance, on the iPad in a few seconds, a palate that even in watercolour would take you two minutes.

CS: Also you've been able to use the iPad in other ways ...

DH: I'm only interested in picture-making technology actually. I never did e-mail until I got the iPhone. I'm very bad at answering mail, I don't bother really. I can be kind of rude in that way. I'm not rude to people's faces but--

CS: Well you were to me. Remember when I had a BlackBerry. What did you tell me?

CS/DH in unison: That was for secretaries.

DH: I'm not that social. I don't mind if I'm never invited back. I'm a smoker, they don't like that. But I don't care, I'm perfectly happy at home actually.

CS: I think, David, a lot of people say the jury is out because they can't put a monetary value on what's going on ... But you do know that there is something subversive about what you are doing.

DH: Yeah, there is, and I like that. I mean, I don't mind being subversive. We did point out I couldn't figure out how you could sell them, or do anything. But that didn't put me off. I think you should push it more, explore more. Actually I never understood the questions of, you know, can you make art on the iPad? You can make art with anything, can't you?

CS: Years ago you had a quote when people asked about computer art. You said, "Well you wouldn't call it 'pencil art.'"

DH: I never understood the phrase "digital art" actually much. You've only got art really! There's only art.

CS: We have a question from the audience: "Have your ideas about the camera obscura and the practices of artists gained general acceptance yet?"

DH: I have no idea actually. There is a new book coming out on Caravaggio written by Whitfield. He agrees with me about the optics. He points out that Caravaggio made no drawings. So how were his paintings constructed? I admit for years I'd looked at Caravaggio and it never occurred to me that optics could have been involved, but when I got involved with optics, with the camera lucida, it made me see a lot of things. You begin to see seams that you didn't see before. It's interesting. I always say none of us see the same things, because we see with memory.

David Hockney's Fresh Flowers: Drawings on the iPhone and iPad is on in the Institute for Contemporary Culture's Roloff Beny Gallery until January 1,2012.
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Author:Scheips, Charlie
Publication:ROM Magazine
Article Type:Interview
Date:Dec 20, 2011
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