Toronto Life: David Hockney's iPad paintings show that a cool device can't rescue bad art

by Paddy Johnson on October 19, 2011 · 9 comments Opinion

How many vertical compositions does one show need?

This month I have an article in Toronto Life that looks at David Hockney’s ipad paintings. To my mind these works look like glorified iPhone wallpaper but since the artist has a history of working with technology, maybe they will get better. The teaser below.

David Hockney's Fresh Flowers exhibition has been touring Europe in advance of its only Canadian stop, at the ROM's Institute for Contemporary Culture, and garnering a lot of hype along the lines of “74-year-old visionary explores cool new medium!” The show consists of hundreds of flower-themed still lifes done exclusively on iPads and iPhones. (Hockney added his own spin, saying that working with the Apple devices allows him to paint without the “mess”—which sounds as though he's promoting a cleaning product.)

This could be seen as familiar territory for the British pop art pioneer. In the '80s, his use of office-quality photocopies, fax machines and Polaroids put him at the forefront of art about the tension between original works and reproductions. The kind of heavy collage pieces he created by manipulating original work is now a regular sight in modern art galleries. (Today, the subject of reproduction couldn't be more relevant to the copy-and-paste practices of young artists, though Hockney's influence is cited far less often than you'd expect.)

In embracing the iPad as an art-making device, Hockney is showing again that he is an early adopter of new technology, but this time the results aren't likely to influence anyone.

To read the full piece click here.


  • Benthompson

    That stuff would not even sell on Etsy.

  • Michael Vickers

    truth. glad you said what many were thinking regarding all the buzz around work that is mediocre at best.

  • Danny Olda

    I’m glad someone said it.  A new medium does not good art make.

  • Anonymous

    i see the craze and race of e-lectrons.

  • Anonymous

    I saw this show in Copenhagen this summer. It doesn’t really get better. The idea that you need 20 iPads and 20 iPods to show computer paintings is a joke.

    Not to mention that Hockney isn’t much of an “early adopter of new technology” as he was quoted as saying, “the iPod kills our sense of art” back in 2007…

  • Pete

    I’m glad someone wrote this as well, sad that they didn’t show some artists who are actually doing interesting things in the digital painting realm…

  • John Sabotta

    It’s purely an affectation that he doesn’t use a Cintiq. Probably wouldn’t help, though

  • Mlymer

    i’m remembering lots of people in the mid 70’s doing polaroid, fax and copy work. 

  • Liv Moe

    Oh this criticism is long over due. I’ve been thinking so ever since I spotted his first iPad New Yorker cover.  

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