The 1960s was a time of huge changes throughout the world, and swinging London was certainly one such place. British artist David Hockney grew up in London in the aftermath of World War II, and eventually moved to Los Angeles and had an extraordinary career, creating works from paintings to digital works. Director Randall Wright worked with Hockney to created Hockney: A Life In Pictures, telling Hockney’s life story about his wonderful career. Milk Bar Magazine got to speak with Wright about his documentary.
How did you get involved with making a documentary about Hockney? Were you a fan of his work?
I interviewed David several years ago, and again when he was thinking about artists used cameras, long before optical devices to capture faces. We got along, he knew I was a film maker and that I knew about optics. He was living in London then too. When he started, it was first time there was a real community of younger British artists working in different ways.
He’s a paradoxical person, a performer, a showman. At the same time, he’s extremely quite and complex. I’m interested in the paradoxes of people. He’s trying to say something about love and get closer to each other. His paintings are being about closer to be curious. I think all the other things in life, violence and war, they’re very conspicuous in their absence.
How long did it take to make the documentary? Interviewing all those people, conducting research, and filming and editing the film would have taken a long time.
It was a process of 2-3 years. I was making other films at the same time. The film happened because I discovered I had an enormous archive. David provided footage of his family in the ’60s. I wanted to tell the story originally because they are attached to the work, there are literal pictures. He’s not a sarcastic or ironic man. His pictures were encounters of events in his life. To make sense of mix his artwork with his painting. They’re a visual diary of his life. He was interested in getting people to engage with the emotional content.
What do you feel inspired Hockney to create the artworks that he created? Where did that inspiration come from?
It’s a complex thing. In a sense you could argue, the man has a great sense of humour and loves the pleasure of looking. If you look cafefully, you’ll pick up something. For example, I was walking along with him one day. I picked a wild flower from the pavement. He said he hadn’t seen that colour in years. The different kind of light. There’s something about being in charge of his life and looking for love. He came from a world just feeling the affect of American in the late ’50s. In the background, there was changes.
As a gay man, he had a sense of another life where there was fun and see extraodinary things. Where he was, people are conservative and religious. It was a world that wasn’t going to see him, as a gay person and as an artist. He couldn’t sign up membership to that society. Art gave him ways to explore the planet. He was immensely popular and successful. His work was a big hit with galleries chasing him. It was unusual for an artist. He had money too. With all that, he had this opportunity to take pictures and explore. He became someone who explores his whole life. He used to be a very extremely sexual person,
Hockney is known for his post-war work. Do you feel if World War II never happened that his work would be different?
He’s very much a product of the post-war world. The shock of atomic war was a big thing for him. What he would say, destruction is everything that’s wrong about human beings, and creation is everything that’s right. He’s very certain about that sort of thing. I think there’s that to the beauty of life. There were enormous changes in art at the time. There was enormous delight in breaking the rules.
Hockney usually paints and draws his work, but in more recent years has created work using digital. What made him decide to change his methods?
He’s always exploring techniques on how to make something. With the digital revolution, there’s enormous change in art with the invent of photography, so art becomes something as more of a poetic exercise. With the invention of computers and iPads, an artist can take a photograph and play with them to. Pushing himself back into it, avoiding pretentiousness of an outsider status.
Has Hockney seen this documentary? If so, what were his thoughts on it?
He has. He’s shows it to his house. He likes the music, it’s like a character in the film.
What are the plans for the documentary? Where will it be screened?
The release date in the U.S. is in April, then in France, Italy and Germany. It’s already in the U.K. Documentaries are digital mediums, they would’ve been on television as shorts. What I’m doing now, I’m making films for cinemas. A great attraction. The film wasn’t absolute on the control of a TV channel. It could float around to download on many screens. Dave was excited.
As far as Australia goes, he has art in Australian collections. I know he’s quite well known in Australia. The other thing about David is that he’s a brave person. When he was painting on such topics like gay love in the late ’50, early ’60s, it was illegal, extraordinarily courageous. To live somewhere in the art world, the artist would have a career in Paris or New York. His journey from London to L.A. was extremely unusual for an artist.
Originally published here at milkbarmag.com on Friday 22 January 2016