..."the sunrise wouldn't be that interesting." I was astonished when I heard David Hockney say that. He was referring to the concept of his current exhibition in Paris, "Fleurs Fraiches", where the medium is the message. Digital screens are the viewing mechanism for his iPad-created art. While Hockney claims to have found an access point into a revolution, both in terms of process and curatorial methodology, I have to question the viability of this medium and its true intentions. See the article here.
Hockney has always pushed the boundaries so it is natural that he is making art using iPhones and iPads and all of their tools (such as "Brushes" mentioned in the article). He is one of art's old guard: he's been around (b. 1937) and is always poking his head into something new. Moreover, he has opinions and is not afraid to share them. His popular fame came with the photographic collages of the 1980s -- a process that is often explored in basic photography courses. More recently, however, art historians lambasted as well as embraced him for claiming that earlier artists, Old Masters particularly, traced their work. That is, they used drawing aids. He went to great lengths to demonstrate that artists had used the camera obscura as an aid for defining underdrawing and overpainting. His published findings, I would argue, serve as a demonstration of knowledge (and the importance of knowledge and inquiry as part of the artistic process); although noted scholar Susan Sontag begged to differ, remarking "If David Hockney's thesis is correct, it would be a bit like finding out that all the great lovers of history have been using Viagra." To, me, though, optical aids can, indeed, yield photographic likeness but the use of them need not diminish the importance of drawing or the finished work.
In looking at Hockney's oeuvre (and this current contribution to the stories of art), we see that his work in stage design, drawing, printmaking, painting, and photography enabled (and forced) him to experiment ambitiously with these art forms and push the manner in which they challenge perception and reality. He has taken on fax machines, computers, and, now the iPad. Am I turned off by this new concept just because it's technology? Or, is there something deeper that is gnawing at me? It's the latter. Hockney is moving toward the easy way out. He commented: "It's a real privilege to make these works of art through digital tools which mean you don't have the bother of water, paints, and the chore of clearing things away." This comment, and the one at the head of this post, smacks of laziness and a pressure to perform rather than inventiveness and/or a "revolution" in the making. Having made this comment, myself, however, I only hope folks take the time to read the article and this post. It's a wee bit of work, but hopefully you're up for it!
For the Sontag quote, see Graeme Sullivan, Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in Visual Arts, Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2010, 122.
NOTE: You'll have to excuse the article that the link points to above. As a review, it's quite awful, particularly the reference to the Eiffel Tower. Hello, cast iron! That was an incredible technological invention that transformed the state of 19th century engineering. To make a reference to that irony of the digital art "in a lush and ornate gallery a stone's throw from the Eiffel Tower" is irrelevant.