Finding Yourself: David Hockney (Part I)


I’ve been doing some soul-searching over the past few months in Singapore. Part of my self-reflection journey has been realising the importance of constantly seeking new forms of inspiration and developing fresh creative ideas. If this means moving out of the country or finding new avenues to express oneself, then go for it! Since my teenage years, I have been lucky enough to have had opportunities for solo travel and these moments of exploration and growth are truly enriching.

Living in California has always been on my bucket list. Every time I meet someone who has spent time in Los Angeles, I’m blown away by their positivity, energy and conscious lifestyle. 


Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica, 1990 © David Hockney


British artist David Hockney grew up in Yorkshire, Northern England during World War Two. Yorkshire is a county with plenty of moors and valleys, set in earthy tones (browns, yellows, greens). At the age of 27, Hockney moved to Los Angeles, having never visited before. He set up a studio in Santa Monica, and eventually settled in Hollywood Hills when he returned in the 1970s.

To Hockney, California was everything that England wasn’t. The sun-filled city and seemingly glamorous lifestyle filled him with joie de vivre. He felt alive among the city's bold and saturated colors, and this was the light at the end of a tunnel that became instrumental in his artistic development. He especially admired the creations of Walt Disney, and made frequent trips to Disneyland.

Cumulatively, Hockney spent over 50 years in California, from the 1960s to 2010s.


Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) © David Hockney 


Houses in Los Angeles are large and swimming pools are ubiquitous – the latter became a recurring and recognisable subject in Hockney’s work. The abundance of color and light in Southern California made an impact on Hockney and over the years, he experimented with different ways of representing light in painting. Hockney was preoccupied with portraying depth of water in swimming pools and curves from the sun's refracting and reflecting rays. Hockney's most famous painting is perhaps A Bigger Splash, on view in London's Tate Britain. A Bigger Splash is the last in a series of three splash paintings made during the years 1966 and 1967.


“I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds; it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds. Everyone knows a splash can’t be frozen in time, so when you see it like that in a painting it’s even more striking than in a photograph.”


In essence, Hockney's splash paintings and new life in Southern California charted a new visual identity, which evolved into his signature pop art style.


A Bigger Splash, 1967 © David Hockney. Collection of Tate 


Sometimes, we need to let go of who we already are, in order to find out who we can become. Our path in life is never straight, and it’s incredible how a single experience or moment can be so transformative.


“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~ Walt Disney



 Exploring Art with David Hockney


Read Finding Yourself: David Hockney (Part II)

Read Finding Yourself: David Hockney (Part III)