Often, when we want to tell or write appreciatively about an art documentary film that describes an exhibition or a museum, we use the expression - 'watching the film is similar / second best to the experience of visiting the exhibition or the museum'. In the case of the documentary 'David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts' which is part of the 'Exhibition on Screen' series coordinated and directed (most of the films) by Phil Grabsky, I think this comparison says too little. In fact, by choosing to focus on two exhibitions with a well-defined theme as artistic genres (one of landscapes, the other of portraits), Grabsky offers us in this documentary not only the opportunity to see the works in perfect visual conditions, without the crowds, without physical or financial efforts, but also an in-depth critical approach to a stage in the evolution of one of the leading contemporary artists of the United Kingdom and the world, still in full physical and creative form more than half a century since the beginning of his career as a painter.
Having become a member of the Royal Academy of Arts, David Hockney was offered the opportunity to repeatedly exhibit at the historic headquarters of the reputed institution at Burlington House in London. Together with curator Edith Devaney, Hockney has designed two exhibitions that focused on a distinct artistic genre. 'A Bigger Picture' from 2012 gathers landscapes, many large dimensions composed of paintings, outdoors painted in a light and with an impressionistic freedom, but using a kind of acrylic colors that combine an excellent mixing and synthesis capacity. with the necessary resilience to the artistic process under changing environmental conditions. '82 Portraits and One Still Life 'from 2016 is a collection of works done in fixed format and in limited time (20-22 hours in front of the sewer in three working days with models from the circle of friends and collaborators). On the one hand Hockney is an artist who needs frames and frames - geometric or in time. On the other hand, these component elements are combined in a unitary design and architecture. Each of the two exhibitions can be viewed as a work of art itself, a complex construction, a meditation of an artist at maturity on two of the major artistic genres of figurative art.
I believe that Phil Grabsky made an excellent choice by selecting these two new exhibitions by David Hockney. He had alternatives, too, because around the same time Hockney had several major retrospective exhibitions on display at major museums around the world, including Tate Modern. By renouncing to review the timeline of the painter's career (there is no painting with a swimming pool in the movie!) in favor of filming two recent exhibitions, Grabsky not only left space for a in depth examination of the works at this time of artistic maturity, but also recorded the artist's opinions about the phase in which he is, about his artistic past, present and future, about the connection with nature in landscapes and with the people painted in portraits. I am convinced that the two extensive interviews taken by Tim Marlow concerning the two exhibitions will remain for the future generations important documents in understanding the artist and man. 'David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts' is the documentary I liked most of the ones I've seen so far in the 'Exhibitions on Screen' series. I don't know what I could ask more from an art documentary.
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