Colin visits the David Hockney exhibition at the RA / 26 March 2012
Judging by the numbers of disabled people I saw at the Royal Academy's David Hockney exhibition last Saturday, there is a will that goes beyond simply paying lip service to accessibility, to market the gallery to include disabled people.
The huge scale of the work on show, and the use of vivid colour means this exhibition is largely accessible for visitors with a range of sight impairments. The audio-guides provided had some clear, informative descriptions of the scale and detail of the works, whilst giving some good insight into artistic processes, with observations from Hockney himself, commenting on his work.
The popularity of this show with the general public has been overwhelming, leading to an average queue of two hours to gain entrance as we approach the last few weeks of its run. The gallery seems to be coping with the numbers of people, staggering entrance times so the numbers don’t go beyond capacity.
The main body of the work on show are oils, watercolours and charcoal drawings inspired by the Yorkshire Landscape. There is an intent to give visitors an appreciation of how the changing seasons and the time of day affect the light in a given spot in the landscape. Hockney has repeatedly gone back to the same bit of track through the countryside; and the same view of trees. He is fascinated by the way that trees arch over to contain the light, creating a tunnel affect in summer, when the trees are in leaf. The same spot in winter shows bare branches that open the space up and allow the sky in. This has the effect of making you look at the way that changes in the light affect the colour and mood of the landscape.
The enthusiasm of the way that Hockney’s work has been received could develop to compare with how Constable came to be viewed in the latter half of the 20th century. Hockney’s work has a certain romanticism to it. He puts modest, unspectacular, scenes from the Yorkshire Wolds firmly back on the map. But largely these series of paintings, film and digital prints look at trees as architectural forms. The work, thankfully, doesn’t offer the same degree of sentimentality that led to Constable being viewed as 'the' painter of the English idyll.
Lastly I'd like to comment on the impressive range of accessible events the gallery has provided for the Hockney exhibition. It has included Lipspeaking talks, Audio-described and BSL events, events for wheelchair-users, as well as a drawing Hockney soundscapes workshop, designed to be inclusive of individual access requirements.
David Hockney: A Bigger Picture is on at the Royal Academy until the 9 April. Check the RA website for further information at http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/hockney/
In the meantime The Royal Acadmey is running a series of sessions for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s and their carers or family members on 23 April and 14 May; looking at artworks from the Permanent Collections and exploring objects from the multi sensory handling collection. For details go to http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/events/special-events/