Sunday, 1 April 2012

Hockney and Freud "Banana Milkshake vs Bourbon."

With only a week left until one of them closes it is a must that any person interested in British Art, stroke that human being (!) if at all possible can make their way to both the David Hockney at the Royal Academy and the Lucian Freud exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Since moving down to the big smoke these are two of the major exhibitions I have been to see and trust me they do not disappoint.

Forget your troubles come on get Hockney! Seriously if you are feeling a bit blue the Royal Academy is the place to head. David Hockney’s joyous exhibition will make you recall one of those days when the sun was out and you skipped through a wood-land, jumped over a burn and lazed under the dappled green canopy of trees without a care in the world. Hell that's pretty much what I did up until the age of 13 until bam wham you enter the metaphor of fleshy self-reflective Lucian Freud's exhibition. OK that was perhaps a bit over self psychological but you get the idea.

Both exhibitions I suppose could described as celebrations of life, saying that takes on a more poignant meaning concerning the recent passing away of Freud, but both celebrations on very different ways. Hockney’s in that respect is more obvious with the large canvas’s and bright brilliant colours of English landscapes (non of that Constable bore stuff though, Hockney injects modernism and life into his landscapes) celebrating nature not in a dramatic way but in a way that is reflective of the changing of the seasons and the life spirit and colour that can be found in the countryside without being cliqued or dull (which I tend to generalise when it comes to landscape painting.) Freud’s though undoubtedly emotionally darker exhibition can be described as a celebration of humanity and the people who came in and out of his life, with his fleshy nudes of friends and portraits of family members. Portraits of family members such as his children do of course perhaps create a bit of a contradiction in this thought of celebration, as many tales tell of his lack of closeness with them, with time spent together only really occurring during sittings for his work. I have to admit though thinking about the exhibition I have to scrap my whole thought process of Freud’s exhibition as a celebration of the people that came in and out of his life, because in essence the paintings appear more as a documentation of these people. His nudes so fleshy and grotesquely human appear rather vulnerable to Freud’s penetrative gaze, in which he captures every nook and cranny of the bodies as if they were specimens in an anatomy class.
There as obviously been much comparison between these two exhibitions due to their heavy weight titles within British art and the fact both artists were good friends and sat for each other.
David Hockney by Lucian Freud 2002

Lucian Freud and Assistant David Dawson by David Hockney 2002

 I found a fantastic article that describes the two contending exhibitions through perfect comparisons. If you can’t be bothered reading it here is a quote which really holds true to the Hockney vs Freud showdown “I left the Academy brimming with cheer - Hockney is like arty Prozac. And, it was wise to have a dose of happiness before hitting the ‘Lucian Freud Portraits’ at the National Portrait Gallery.”
So follow this advice and get on down before the arty Prozac closes on the 9th of April, cause Lucian's nudes are going to be unnerving London until May.

I read an article in Dazed and Confused a couple of issues ago about Sue Tilley, the then benefits officer who posed for Freud's probably most recognisable painting. It discussed Tilley's experience during her sessions with Freud and the 80's club scene that she was involved in. Unfortunetly I can't seem to find this back issue. But I did find a small interview with Tilley in the Dazed website about what she is up to now a involves a few more clothes...and no she is no longer a benefits officer.