Purple Magazine

david hockney


interview by DONATIEN GRAU

“The only things that matter in life are food and love; in that order… I truly believe this, and for me, the basis of art is love.”

DONATIEN GRAU — You have depicted people you love: friends, lovers… How different is it to depict them than to paint nature?
DAVID HOCKNEY — All painting is difficult, but if you get a branch of a tree a little off, you don’t notice as much as getting a nose a bit off in a portrait. But I give the same concentration to painting nature as I do to portraits.

DONATIEN GRAU — How does your love of life impact your work?
DAVID HOCKNEY — I don’t really know. Isn’t it for others to decide this?

DONATIEN GRAU — You sign your letters “love life.” Why is that?
DAVID HOCKNEY — Love life! Well, what’s the opposite? Love death? Everybody must love it, if you think of the alternative. It’s just that some people forget this. It’s just a little reminder.

DONATIEN GRAU — What do you mean when you say you love life?
DAVID HOCKNEY — If you don’t know about loving life, what do you know?

DONATIEN GRAU — Is there a palette for love?
DAVID HOCKNEY — The palette for love contains all colors.

DONATIEN GRAU — Loving life and painting with intense colors: do you see a parallel?
DAVID HOCKNEY — Color is the most fugitive thing in life and art. We all must see color differently. At the moment, I have different colors in each eye — this is caused by a growing cataract in my right eye. I will have it seen to shortly. I am aware that a lot of people don’t have much sense of color, or anyway not like Matisse or Van Gogh. Just looking around at today’s painting tells me that. Color is still developing. Green was a difficult color to keep in the past — think of Monet without green oxide. Turner and Mondrian hated green, but obviously Constable didn’t. His were the first really green landscapes for years, yet I have a book of Dürer watercolors that has a lot of green, and the Ghent Altarpiece has some beautiful greens in it, which are still there. It’s odd that Turner didn’t like green, as England is a very green country. I think sometimes you have to really look to see color. I think it is always there.

DONATIEN GRAU — For me, your way of painting is a bit like getting lost in the sensation of seeing and rendering as precisely and as acutely as possible. Is it your way of loving the world?
DAVID HOCKNEY — Of course I think the world is beautiful. We have eyes and can see. I sometimes think that it’s the process of looking that’s beautiful. I can remember when I could first go on the buses in Bradford. I would always run upstairs and go right to the front of the bus so I could see more — and in those days, the air was blue with smoke. Anyway, I survived it. I have always drawn and painted the world around me. I’m still at it. That is why I have painted only people I know. Everything on a flat surface is an abstraction. I have always known this, but one can draw and paint things that are recognizable to another. I have always thought that the cave artist (perhaps one of my relatives) who first painted an animal on the cave wall had someone watching him who grunted (if there still wasn’t language) that he had seen something like that outside. It was only a few lines, but enough for a fellow human being to see and recognize it. I am still at this today.

DONATIEN GRAU — You love to look. Do you see a relation between loving and looking?
DAVID HOCKNEY — I love to look. How many greens can I see, all with slightly different textures? That’s what I start to think when I look at the garden and then the spaces between the trees. It’s always different. I just love it.

DONATIEN GRAU — It seems to me that you tend to lose yourself in nature and in painting. Does that feeling of being lost in nature and painting feel like love?
DAVID HOCKNEY — I know you can get out of yourself when painting, but is this being lost in nature? I don’t know — it could be. Yet I feel part of nature, just a creature looking at a very beautiful world. And then I make some marks about my “looking.” That’s all I’m doing.




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