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David Hockney's Faces : Hockney on Hockney

January 18, 1987|DAVID HOCKNEY

From August through October, 1983, Hockney set himself the task of drawing a self-portrait virtually every day. All of the works on these pages are charcoal on paper. "They were drawn mostly early in the morning," he says. "I noticed if you did this they were always different: Not only did you have different expressions, you also had totally different moods and feelings, and that affects your mind. I realized that your mood is reflected in the way you draw the lines and marks. You also try to pick up the mood of the sitter, so in a portrait of someone else there are two moods. In a self-portrait it is the same mood. During this period I was working on the big tableaux for the exhibition 'Hockney Paints the Stage,' and the self-portraits do reflect the fact that even I was beginning to panic a little bit about the massive amount of work I had taken on. I'm not a panicky sort of person--I keep very cool; but I realized that I had to cover a lot of canvas and that I still had to invent some of them. That is probably reflected in 'Self-Portrait With Cigarette, 1983,' a somewhat anguished look. I'm not panicking; if I was panicking, I wouldn't even have drawn myself. The self-portrait of 12th September, 1983, was done in London, where I had come to supervise the staging at Covent Garden of the double bill I had designed of works by Ravel and Stravinsky. I didn't really want to come, and I was a bit down. This particular drawing was done one afternoon after hearing the orchestra rehearse the Ravel music. I thought it was so beautiful it made me feel fantastic. So I came back and did this: It's Ravel's music."

Picasso's discoveries have had immense repercussions on Hockney's theories about "moving focus," a constantly changing point of view that seeks to create a pictorial equivalent of the experience of walking toward a person who is himself in movement. Jerry Sohn, above, who has worked for Hockney part time as an assistant in Los Angeles, obligingly contorted his torso for a series of seven rapidly executed charcoal drawings that animatedly map out his features and the playfully supple movements of his body.

Hockney's conviction that Cubism is not just a style but also a way of seeing and representing the world is demonstrated in his portraits of the 1980s. This study of his mother deep in concentration over a word game, right, gives vivid visual form to the thought process in the simultaneous rendition of separate activities--writing and pausing to think--that in reality were taking place as a cycle of repeated motions. The drawing is typical of Hockney's portraits in that its subject is in an everyday situation rather than stiffly posed.

Fabric designer Celia Birtwell has been one of Hockney's closest friends over the past 20 years. Her portrait, above, combines delicacy of drawing, particularly of Birtwell's face, with a boldness of design by which the outstretched flowers seem to be transformed into a flat pattern printed on her jacket, a clever and gentle pun on her profession. With the aid of an office-size photocopier, Hockney made the grossly enlarged detail, above right, reproduced in the exhibition catalogue. He has willingly sacrificed the subtlety of both color and surface in the original crayon drawing, dramatically remaking the face with the photocopier.

Himself an artist of considerable promise, Ian Falconer, right, returns Hockney's scrutiny with an equally intense gaze. The attitude of his body suggests nervous energy straining against the enforced composure of the pose. The broken lines and cross-hatchings of the sepia-ink drawing convey the sitter's personality and suggest that the process of drawing someone is also a means of getting to know that person's looks and behavior.

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