David Hockney – ChatterQuote July 2013
A belief is like a guillotine, just as heavy, just as light.
David Hockney is a British Painter, Draughtsman, Printmaker, Photographer and Stage Designer – a Cancer, who was born on July 9, 1937 in Bradford, England, the fourth of five children. Now in his mid seventies, he currently splits his time between his homes in Kensington, London and Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire. Plus, he also maintains two additional residences in California.
What’s interesting about the quote I have chosen from him for this month (whether he knew it or not) is that he was directly referencing an historical event that took place during the sign of Cancer on July 14, 1789, which was the Storming of the Bastille and what is now known and celebrated as Bastille Day, and which also happens to have been my mum’s birthday.
The Bastille itself was a fortress-like prison in Paris, France, and this event marked the end of the “absolute monarchy” and became a symbol for the French Revolution and subsequent First Republic. During the French Revolution, the “Guillotine” was the execution device of choice, in particular during the Reign of Terror once the Monarchy had been overthrown. Executions back then were public, and I remember learning about the old French women, nick-named “Tricoteuses” who would sit at the foot of the Guillotine knitting away as the heads rolled, one after the other… And although one generally associates the Guillotine with that period of French history, use of this device continued and surprisingly, the last person to be executed by Guillotine in France was in 1977, which wasn’t actually that long ago…
I remember going to see the David Hockney retrospective some years ago now (I still have the book!). The exhibition started out in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1988, from there it came to the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York, and in 1989 it was at the Tate Gallery in London. It was one of those rare occasions when I actually decided to spend the extra money and rent the audio headset so that I could walk through the exhibition whilst listening to David Hockney himself commentating on his own paintings. It was well worth it, and hearing that lovely accent warmed my heart! I particularly loved his California swimming pools, inspired by his first visit to the West Coast, and where he subsequently lived on and off for 30 years. As an English person who also grew up in that cold, gray, rainy climate, I so identified with Hockney’s excitement at seeing all of those palm trees and sparkling swimming pools in sunny California. To many ex-pats, this alone is pure heaven and why many of them moved out there! But back to David, who as a Cancer, the Crab, and the first of the three Water signs also identified with those swimming pools in a totally natural way, whether he realized it, or not.
David Hockney was a major contributor to the “Pop Art” movement. One of my favorites of his series were his collages, being a bit of a “collager” myself… There’s something very satisfying about seeing a whole bunch of small images that subsequently come together to create one new larger image – a bit like where the sum of something is greater than its parts… Another of Hockney’s skills was that of Stage Designer, most notably for the opera, including The Rake’s Progressat the 1975 Glyndebourne Festival in England, Parade for the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in New York City in 1981, Turandot at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1991, and in 1992 Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Royal Opera House in London (and that’s just a “taste!”)
Check out this profile on David Hockney in the Arts section of TheTelegraph.co.uk by filmmaker Bruno Wollheim and his documentary for the BBC entitled “A Bigger Picture.”