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Published: 20 Jan 2012

Hockney's Digital Influence


London's Royal Academy has opened its latest 'blockbuster' exhibition dedicated to British artist David Hockney’s strikingly colourful, upbeat imagery of natural landscapes, and it is sure to prove influential. His supersized depictions of the Yorkshire landscape – his birthplace in the north-east of England – immerse the viewer in vivid seasonal panoramas. 

Most striking in the exhibition is Hockney's use of vivid colour – almost electrified and as bright as colour can appear on a glowing digital screen. Well-known for using iPad software to paint, some of his digital images are also on show – although viewers are strictly instructed not to touch the appealingly tactile iPads on display. His new video work also reflects his fascination with the human experience of nature and changing seasons, driving a hacked-together nine-camera grid down country roads and recording the scenery – the resulting films being surprisingly immersive.

Hockney – who works between Los Angeles and Yorkshire – often paints from memory, driving down country roads and then working from rough sketches and his imagination alone. His early photographic panoramas, made in the 1980s, are also on display. Consisting of standard 3x4 photo prints painstakingly collaged together to create wide-angle vistas of the Grand Canyon, they are precursors to the era of smartphone apps that can digitally stitch our camera phone pictures into impressive 360-degree images in just a couple of seconds.

With the advent of smartphones and tablet devices, Hockney has succeeded in bringing imagery and colour influenced by 21st-century technology into the traditional galleries of the Royal Academy – proving himself to be a digital art hero without the whizz-bang of complex computer graphics and coding.

Royal Academy