Frack you Hockney! (drunken dispatches from a fancy art opening)

Thursday November 24, 2016

The final room in David Hockney's 'Current' exhibition is like Vivaldi for your eyeballs. Four video works are set up on opposite walls. They all travel silently along the same magnificent stretch of road in the Yorkshire countryside. But each screen is on an infinite loop through a different season – spring, summer, autumn, and winter. If you stand there long enough it's possible to get lost in a meditative state, all sense of temporality is suspended. No obstacles, no problems, no fears and no doctrine. Just art for art's sake. Truth and beauty. Beauty and truth…

“This is boring”. My girlfriend yanks my mind out of the countryside. We're both drunk. I'm back inside my body and feeling sluggish. I chased down too many tiny bowls of poached salmon at the reception. I'm all buttery on the insides.

But is this boring?

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I think about the Hockney-themed Mercedes parked out the front. I imagine driving it down a limitless Yorkshire road. I am an old Englishman in freshly starched baker boy cap, my leather driving gloves squeak agreeably as I clasp the wheel. The road ahead is devoid of obstacles and challenges. It just winds forever forward – season after season of stunning safety. Could this be the perfect metaphor for everything that's wrong with the NGV?

What would happen if I aim this Mercedes at a tree? Would it tear a hole through the pristine seasons that are beaming out from the gallery walls? Would the hole get wider and wider and wider. Would it keep expanding until it's wide enough for thirty million Bangladeshi climate refugees to fit through? Could they all camp in the Great Hall under the stained glass ceiling and feast on buttery poached salmon?

Then again, they probably wouldn't all fit.

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Wonder if these two will let some refugees camp on their lawn?

God, when did I get so drunk and pissy? I'm lucky they even invite me to these things. I had to google David Hockney on the way so I wouldn't seem like an idiot… ok so he was painting gay love while Warhol was still painting cans. That's brave. He's 79 years-old and is known to still spend six hours a day at an easel. You gotta respect that. He refused a knighthood. That's badass. He can hear colours, but he's nearly deaf the poor guy… he's pro fracking… hmm ok. Gotta stop googling on the iPhone. Focus on the art. Art for art's sake.

Let's do one more lap.

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It really is striking. The walls explode with colour. The work is computer-generated and smooth and somehow so human. I love how you can witness each stroke being recreated. It's like they've found a way to bottle pure creativity. I've never seen anything like it.

Ahh yes, but what does it mean? What does it really say when an art legend uses an iPad to paint a pretty picture of Yosemite National Park? Is it a poignant comment on the artifice of nature? Is it a fearless leap into a new medium from a man who's never been afraid to fail? Does it cause us all to reflect on the very concept of reality itself?

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Or is it just the same as when every old guy gets enamoured with a new gadget? They're all energised by the potential of this shiny new thing. The blue glow lights their glee as they convert their rolodex into data. And all you can think is, jeez, my phone only ever does two things: it either distracts from my sense of terror and disgust or amplifies it. It's all well and good for Hockney to unlock technology's creative potential – to see it as some kind of liberating force. The man's nearly dead.