Monday, November 27, 2017

David Hockney Doesn't Observe

Art critics will cite all the historical schools that influenced it, but this David Hockney picture actually shows that Hockney does not observe the world around him.

David Hockney, Domestic Scene, 1963

Anyone who is not an art critic will react to this painting by thinking that water just doesn't behave in this way. Water from a shower does not remained contained in a narrow space that will let it fall into this sort of small basin.  It would end up all over the floor. The error is so blatant that it prevents most of us from seeing anything else about the painting.

Hockney has written a book saying that the old masters could not possibly have created their realistic paintings without using optical instruments, such as the camera obscura, and tracing the image they cast on the canvas. This "Hockney-Falco thesis" doesn't make any sense because they created equally realistic sculptures, such as Michelangelo's David, and their optical instruments could not possibly have cast a three-dimensional image for them to trace.

The evidence shows that some of the old masters used optical instruments, but there is no doubt that their realism was also based on close observation of nature and on a system of apprenticeship that built their skills. For example, Michelangelo studied anatomy, and this knowledge about nature helped him to create realistic images of the human body.

The change in western art during the twentieth century is similar to the change that occurred many centuries earlier during the shift from the classical to the Byzantine period. Artists stopped observing nature carefully and lost the skills needed to imitate nature, so they stopped creating realistic art and began creating icons - art that symbolizes the subject rather than accurately depicting the subject.

Hockney does the same thing here, using a blue outline to symbolize water flowing from a shower. He couldn't depict water flowing from a shower because he obviously has never observed it carefully.

We can do better. The Art Renewal Center has a large number of artists who do the sort of realistic representation that that the old masters did, even though Hockney says it is impossible.

The question is why we don't do better.  Why do all the art critics ignore the real artists and lavish praise on the David Hockneys of this world, whose art obviously involves the same sort of cultural decline as Byzantine art?