Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hockney (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


In 1937, a boy was born in Bradford England in a cement row house. He felt confined but always drew pictures of his life on old notebooks and scraps of paper. The boy hungered for pictures, any sight to help him escape from a dark, rectangular world. On busses he sat at the top row, all the better to see more, more and still more. The small child evolved into the painter David Hockney who enrolled in the Royal College of Art in a functional suit, a bowl haircut and round glasses. He meant business.

"Hockney" is a new documentary by Randall Wright, which explores the artist's drive, his muses and the questions that propel him forward, against the march of time. Above all, the young man was driven to experiment both with himself and with others. Captivated by Hollywood and the pictures, he moved from England to New York and then to Los Angeles, where he promptly dyed his hair a bleach blonde and went to every party he could manage. Hockney was soon one of the most talked about artists in Hollywood.

He now liked the concept of bright technicolor paintings: immense swimming pools, dazzled mad by the sun. All the better to showcase his new positivity, as an artist and an open soul in accepting himself as a gay man, unfettered by the heavy English skies. It all comes down to a new color of paint.

Hockney meets Peter Schlesinger who wildly inspires him and becomes a living feature in many popular paintings of the California period. After their romance that lasted nearly a decade. Hockney found a kindred spirit in Henry Geldzahler. The two remained close until Henry's death in 1996.

The most striking element of this thorough and fluid portrait is Hockney's risk-taking. Driven by literature as well as the visual image, the painter journeys into the silvered darkness of L.A. in the hopes of finding the flavor of the shocking novel "City of Night" by John Rechy. An excerpt of the novel is read by Jack Larson from TV's "Superman," a friend of Hockney. Throughout, we see the painter energized by wildness and the confusion of Francis Bacon, which in turn points to the sun glare aesthetic of the California works  only to finally expand into a Hockney wanting to capture the very scope of Southern California itself, to create a painterly Hollywood movie with several perspectives and multiple inhabitants.

By the film's end, Wright strikes a pensive note as Hockney reminices about his family and friends who have passed. He is left walking fitfully around his pool, hoping to paint another sensorial Shangri-La, one that is without a vanishing point, a painting that he might be able to move into, cheating death, erasing borders, and finally, seeing and feeling his person dissolve into pigment--- a living painting.

Write Ian at ianfree1@yahoo.com

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