I watched a DVD about the painter David Hockney this mornings. In commenting on a series of landscape paintings of his native Yorkshire, he said that “all painting is autobiographical.” After decades as an avant garde painter and co-founder of the Pop Art movement living in L.A., he returned to paint ordinary views of cornfields, woods, and farm houses — some of them in 10 and 12 versions. “If you want to see the thing as it is,” he continues (and I’m paraphrasing), “you can just go there and see for yourself. What I, what a painter will give you, is his view of the thing, his interpretation, his perception at a given moment, however ‘realistic’ it may look.”
In one scene Hockney is standing on a narrow field track leading towards a tunnel of trees. His rubber boots make squishy sounds in the mud; he wears a cap and thick tweeds against the chill as we can hear the sounds from a nearby motorway. At one point a neighbour’s dog comes and barks at him; at another he has to move easel and table aside to let a tractor pass. As he marks a row of bare autumn trees on a large canvas, the sun steadily shifts to create fresh shadows and bathe the mossy tree trunks in pale-green and yellow. Muttering about the “@%#* light,” he paints over the initial black-grey-brown of trees to capture the sun’s reflection. “Rule number one,” he says later, “The moment overrules everything.” As if to illustrate the point he walks off-screen, effectively ending the interview: “I’m a bit tired right now.”
I wish I could be that direct in my observations and actions.