David HOCKNEY<br/>
<em>Sunflowers</em> 2010 <!-- (recto) --><br />

ipad drawing printed on paper<br />
94.0 x 71.0 cm (image and sheet)<br />
ed. 7/25<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
A gift from David Hockney, 2019<br />
2019.156<br />
© David Hockney

David Hockney Sunflowers

In 2019 a selection of twenty-seven of David Hockney’s iPhone and iPad drawings, created over the period 2009–12, were generously gifted by the artist to the Gallery. These vibrant, digitally printed drawings include still lifes of everyday objects (vases of flowers, bowls of fruit, cigarette ash trays, scissors), domestic interiors, window views and several self-portraits. Together, they paint a picture of the artist and his world – a world that is remarkably quotidian for a man considered the most influential British artist of the twentieth century.

Blending the disciplines of painting, drawing, printmaking and photography, Hockney, now eighty-two years old, has maintained an innovative approach to making new work. ‘Some artists do the same thing all the time’, the artist stated in 2015. ‘It’s okay for some, but not for me. I feel I need variety, and I get it.’ From his cool and colourful ‘splash’ paintings of Californian swimming pools to his numerous portraits and self-portraits, and from his Yorkshire landscapes to his photo collages, Hockney has continually revamped his style. Since his student days at the Royal College of Art in the 1960s, two things have remained constant. The first is his embrace of new technologies; for example, his use of photocopiers and fax machines to make ‘home made prints’ in the 1980s and ’90s and his experimentation with computer programs to produce ‘paintings’. The second is his captivation with the challenge of picturing transparency: the surface of water, the sheen of glass, or the ephemeral nature of light. In 2009, these two characteristics converged with Hockney’s discovery of the iPhone, and the following year the iPad, as new tools for creating drawings.

Hockney is a habitual draughtsman. As seen in these twenty-seven drawings, the iPhone and iPad satisfy his compulsive desire to capture the beauty of the everyday – without effort but with all the directness and subjectivity of drawing in a sketchbook. Using the Brushes app, Hockney initially drew on the small glass screen of his iPhone with the side of his thumb, upgrading to a stylus with the larger screen of the iPad, which allowed for greater detail and variety of line. With an unlimited colour palette, adjustable brush settings and an ‘endless sheet of paper’ at his fingertip, these drawings burst with energy, immediacy and texture. When complete, he produces the drawings as large-scale (94 x 65 cm) digital prints in limited editions of twenty-five.

These still lifes and self-portraits complement a series of Hockney’s recent landscapes, donated to the NGV by the artist in 2017, including the important The Yosemite Suite iPad drawings and the multi-part digital video The four seasons, Woldgate Woods, both from 2010. All of these recent works were shown in David Hockney: Current, NGV International, November 2016 – March 2017. The NGV has been collecting Hockney’s work since 1965 and, remarkably, this donation extends the Gallery’s holdings to span half a century – almost the entire length of the artist’s unfaltering career. As the artist affirmed only last year, ‘I’m not bored yet. I’m still curious. I’m still excited by pictures.’

Jessica Cole, Assistant Curator, Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Victoria