David Hockney b. 1937

Provenance

with Tyler Graphics, New York

with Knoedler Gallery, London

with DM Gallery, London 

Private Collection, UK, acquired c1983

Exhibitions

Madrid, Juan March Foundation, David Hockney, 18 September-13 December 1992, cat no.33, illus colour p66

London, Offer Waterman, David Hockney, Early Drawings, 25 September-23 October 2015, cat no.54, illus colour, touring to:

New York, Paul Kasmin Gallery, 3 November-1 December 2015

Literature

Nikos Stangos (ed.), David Hockney, Paper Pools, Thames and Hudson, London, 1980, another variant illus colour, cover image and p35

K.E. Tyler, Tyler Graphics: Catalogue Raisonné, 1974–1985, Tyler Graphics, New York, 1987, cat no.237: DH4, another variant illus colour, p163

Palais des Beaux-Arts, David Hockney, exhibition catalogue, Brussels, 1992, another variant illus colour, pl.33, p66

Description

Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4), 1978 is the last of four unique works (Fig.1) which depict Hockney’s assistant and then companion, Gregory Evans, leaning out of a swimming pool located just outside of New York in the late seventies. The pool was owned by Hockney’s friend and the influential print-maker, Ken Tyler of Tyler Graphics Ltd, whom the artist would collaborate with on Paper Pools; a series of thirty works - of which this is the fourth- created between August and October, 1978. Each work was created using hand- coloured and hand- pressed paper pulp a completely new medium for the artist, the challenges of which enabled him to approach one of his most iconic subjects with renewed impetus. As Hockney recalled,

‘I love new mediums and this was something I had never seen or used before. I think mediums can turn you on, they can excite you: they always let you do something in a different way, even if you take the same subject, if you draw it in a different way, or if you are forced to simplify it, to make it bold because it is too finicky.’ (David Hockney quoted in David Hockney, Paper Pools, ed. David Hockney, Nikos Stangos, 1980, p10)

The pool is one of Hockney’s most important motifs and the subject of some of his most successful paintings from the sixties including Picture of a Hollywood Swimming Pool (1964), Two Boys in a Pool, Hollywood (1965) Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool (1966) and A Bigger Splash (1967). The very nature of water, as something ever changing and constantly in flux, holds true to the paradox of attempting to still in an image what cannot be stilled in life, a concern which is inherent in all of Hockney’s image making, as well as offering a huge amount of possibilities for representation (‘…the point of water is you can look at it in so many different ways; it’s always different; you can choose what to look at, you can say, your eyes will stop here or there,’ Ibid, p48). In this series, the formal values of the swimming pool were particularly well suited to this new medium allowing Hockney to create images in bold, simple colours and the idea of using a watery medium to represent a watery subject appealed greatly to the artist’s playful side.

This series is the result of Hockney’s intense observation of the changes that occur to subject at different times of the day and night over a period of two months. As such, whilst every work has the subject in common, the nuances and feeling of each work are completely unique and singular to the moment in time that they represent. Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4), 1978 is characterised by a brightness of colour, its pool shimmering with white where the light hits its surface that can only imply a summer’s morning. Later in the series, the water becomes large pools of deep greens and blues describing the water lit up at night. Hockney has not engaged with just one subject as a series in this way at any other point in his career and this approach places within a long tradition of artists such as Claude Monet who did much the same thing in his depictions of Rouen cathedral or the haystacks at Giverney.

Hockney would record his initial observations by making both pencil and photographic studies of the pool which he would then use to create coloured line drawings to scale. From the drawings,
metal moulds were then constructed from 1 ½ inch strips of galvanized sheet metal, which were cut, bent and soldered together, mimicking the forms of Hockney’s line drawings. These cloisonné-like moulds were placed over wet flat sheets of newly made paper, creating open compartments for receiving the liquid pulp. After all of the sections were filled in with colour pulp by the artist, assisted by Tyler and Lindsay Green, the moulds were removed and Hockney finished colouring the work applying the coloured pulp and liquid dyes freehand. According to Nikos Stangos,

‘A variety of tools and techniques were invented by Hockney and Tyler to colour the works. Liquid colour pulps were spooned, poured, painted and dropped into the pieces and in some cases Hockney softened hard edges by blending and patting coloured pulp areas with his fingers and hands. Dog combs, toothbrushes, fingers, a garden house and working outside in the rain were used to obtain textural effects. He usually applied liquid dyes with a kitchen baster or a paint brush, but on several occasions sprayed it on with an airbrush. After Hockney finished colouring the works, they were individually pressed between felts in a hydraulic press under great pressure which fused the layers of coloured pulp and began the drying process by removing excess water. Sometimes the paper works were pressed only partially, allowing the artist to make necessary additions and deletions that were only possible in the half-pressed state. The papers were then further dried between wool felts and blotters by numerous hydraulic pressings.’ (Ibid,p7)

The process described here is extremely labour intensive and this series of works have a wonderful physicality to them which is unusual in Hockney’s work. Indeed, Hockney recalled his delight in kneading the paper with his fingers when describing areas of Gregory’s body; a very tactile action being used to articulate the felsh of the body. As one can see in Fig.1, in Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4) there is a wonderful texture to the paper’s surface and the formal qualities of the material itself, such as the distressed edges of the natural paper fibres become as significant as the image that they are representing. This mottled surface lends itself perfectly to the description of water shimmering under bright sunlight and to the slightly blurry silhouette of Gregory’s body, configured through shades of dark and light pink, as it leans against the side of the pool, casting a strong shadow across the ground. Rendered in bold, simple forms this work is saturated with a sun-kissed palette of dappled aquamarine and lemon yellow and shadows of mauve, bright orange and deep blue and it articulates an energy and dynamism, an opening up of forms and scale which Hockney has been searching for in his art at the time. As he stated,

‘They are like paintings which is why I stayed; if they hadn’t been like paintings, I think I would have left after doing the first two or three small ones, I would have thought that was enough. And they also helped me in another way; painting in England before, I kept saying, I thought the paintings were getting too gray, too tight and I kept getting finicky and I wanted to be bolder. And another thing that was nice about Paper Pools was that you were forced to do it in a way, you were forced to think of things in another way, you couldn’t work in the way you had been doing before and put detail in; somehow, working like that defined another kind of essence of making a picture that couldn’t include detail. I think that’s why I enjoyed doing it. And as I say, working with someone who has an awful lot of energy is very thrilling. With Ken Tyler nothing was impossible. If I said, could we, he said, yes, yes it can be done.’ (Ibid, p100)