Hockney Goes Back to His Roots; David Hockney Sought Inspiration from the Landscapes of His Youth. Richard Edmonds Assesses the Pop Artist's Latest Work

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Byline: Richard Edmonds

David Hockney - A Bigger Picture Thames & Hudson (Thames & Hudson: pounds 60) f David Hockney drops his paint brush today, the sound is heard throughout the art world!

IHockney can safely be regarded as foremost amongst contemporary pop artists with an admirable sense of style and continuity, all of which makes his current exhibition at The Royal Academy (which continues until April 9th) an event.

During the swinging 60s which contributed so much to Hockney's development he used to leave his London flat on a Saturday morning, sallying out into the morning sunshine in a gold lame jacket and enormous black spectacles accompanied by his bright blond hair and a pet poodle. Hockney was a showman, he couldn't have cared less about public opinion, he was busily being himself. - camp, gay or whatever.

Sixty years on however, Hockney has sobered down a bit. No longer do we get the Californian swimming pools, with nude males making the bigger splash than most, that world seems to have closed down and Hockney has returned to painting the landscapes of the North of England, remembered from school holidays spent working in the field of East Yorkshire.

Hockney's return to the land where he grew up is celebrated in this sumptuous book of the exhibition, with some ravishing paintings where landscape becomes a riot of imagined colour with savage greens, lilacs and trees in pillar box stripes, all of the colours in a sense, straight out of a DIY wall paint chart.

And I say imagined, since a colour photo can convey only the bare bones of the pictures that you are getting today on the Royal Academy walls.

In Fig. 16, for example, you get a snap taken in 2006 of Hockney surveying an apparently drab bit of Yorkshire countryside. But the same chunk of landscape (which friends from the north tell me contains more than its fair share of fly tipping, including dirty mattresses, rusting tin cans, fridges and bags of decomposing waste) once it has passed through the sorting office of the artist's mind become techni-coloured dream, a reciprocal exchange between what is and what is clearly imagined.

It is something you see with any artist. But the background to this return of the native, has its own interest. Hockney claims descent from a long line of farm labourers, and he also claims a sense of familiarity with the land he knows very well which pre-dates the Industrial Revolution.

John Clare, the poet of the Midlands, as it was before the Enclosures, would have responded warmly to what Hockney is doing in the West Riding, and, of course, we should always remember that Hockney is walking in Turner's footsteps, although he is using a palette that would have given Turner violent indigestion, to say the least.

But Hockney has always been quick to point out that Scotland was there long before Walter Scott invented it. …