I was at the Hockney and kept on getting distracted. I was trying to focus on the quality, the colour, the powerful freedom of expression that he makes you believe is effortless. But this was just not what I saw. A bit like a stain on your dress – once seen, its image is hard to shake off.
What I saw instead was a vision of white male privilege and the consequences of disengagement with themes of caring and social justice. I first noticed this in a long gallery, filled with portraits. Mostly of men. White men. The first portrait of a woman I came across was of a non-white woman, apparently his cleaner. This kind of said it all for me.
And then I thought why, if you were as talented as Hockney and could clearly do anything, why would you do this? Why landscape? Why raw, potent beauty separate to the problems of the world? Is it enough just to record what you see?
Recently I have come to realise that this is just how so many men see (the problems of) the world: as basically nothing to do with them. If you are on the fence about this, take heart – Suzanne Moore once was too.
Hockney is an observer
Hockney is an observer, not a participant. It’s a very cold feeling to find yourself in the presence of a master observer who has not figured out a way to connect what he sees with any sort of answer to any sort of question.
That said, this exhibition is well worth the price of admission and I will return. However it is dwarfed by a far more important showing, also at NGV, namely Lee Mingwei’s Moving Garden. This is a show for everyone – not just those who can afford to see big-ticket events. It engages all who wish to participate and then connects those participants in a dynamic and thought provoking manner.
‘In this project I present a space with beautiful, fresh flowers. Museum guests are invited to take one of these flowers with them when they leave the museum, if they will agree to do two things: first, to make a detour from their intended route when leaving the museum for their next destination; second, along this detour, to give the flower to a stranger who they feel would benefit from this unexpected act of generosity.’
If we consider art as a journey into which the the artist draws us, I know I would rather stand with those who dared to reach out and cause another to smile. What does art mean for you?
Wishing you Health and Happiness,