Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Style, wit and grace in man and art

Exhibition on Screen: David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts

The latest film in the Exhibition on Screen series, coming soon to a cinema near you, and now out on DVD, is another Phil Grabsky masterpiece, this time featuring one of the greatest living artists, David Hockney. I've been following Grabsky's blog for the past few months; in a recent post he talked about his upcoming film (the new Cezanne one, which I'm excited about), and his key question was "What is the story of our film?" That was I'm sure also a challenge for this Hockney project, because of the astounding range and sheer volume of the painter's last decade.

I've been immersing myself in Hockney since my first viewing of this film. There's an excellent book by Tim Barringer and Edith Devaney that came out of the most recent Royal Academy of Arts exhibition, David Hockney: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life, from 2016.

And from the 2012 RAA landscape exhibition, the equally fine David Hockney: A Bigger Picture.

As well, I watched Bruno Wollheim's film of the same name, released in 2010, which I highly recommend. It's available to stream on various platforms, as well as DVD. Hockney had never before allowed video cameras to film him as he painted, but he's completely at ease in front of Wollheim (who had to manage his camera himself), and there's something completely charming about their interactions.

In the latest film we see that same charm and ease in front of Phil Grabsky's cameras, now at a more sophisticated and probing level. The window he opens on Hockney and his dedicated team shows all the hard work that goes into each canvas and print-out. I've spoken before about the perfection of HD video when it comes to opening up the visual arts, and Grabsky is one of the best at presenting art without falling into camera tricks or being stagey or overly reverential. He captures Hockney's flamboyance but also his subtlety, and in the interviews with both the artist and the various experts he shows how the man's style, wit and grace have their mirror in his art. I can't imagine a better way to spend an hour and a half than going to the cinema to see this film. 

Now on to Cezanne!

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