David Hockney is Britain’s greatest living artist, the breadth and depth of his works is truly astounding, his exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2017 was one of the most successful in terms of visitor numbers for any artist and at 81 years old he is still working. He has worked across so many artistic forms: painting, photography, stage design, fax machine art… see his own website here http://www.davidhockney.co/

In the 80’s Hockney used a Polaroid camera for use with his painting of his front room and when he put the photos together the composite photocollage showed him a new way of doing things and he used this process on Peachblossom road, below. The result is often compared to Cubism in the multiple viewpoints and they are splendid to see in real life.    

Hockney is also one of the most learned and academic of artists, in my dissertation on how science and art interact, his book on the secret knowledge used by the Renaissance artists was the best text I referenced. His explanation of the use of camera obscura in the Arnolfini Wedding is fab, especially the way he suggests that the artist had got the angles and perspective spot on in the chandelier and the convex mirror on the back wall.

By Jan van Eyck – Web site of National Gallery, London, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11343084

Hokusai (1760 – 1849) is the creator of The Great Wave off Kanagawa which is probably the most famous piece of Japanese art in the world, it was produced in 1830ish and brought greater fame to Hokusai at the age of 70. He had been drawing since the age of 6, working from 14 and drew at least one image every day of his adult life apparently. When questioned about his working at such an age he said “From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.” He died at 88 years old so didn’t quite manage the most spiritual knowledge he was hoping for but still a great life and seemingly a great age for the period I reckon.   

The whole of the 36 views of Mount Fuji is here (link), Hokusai created them in 1832 and they proved to be so popular he published another 10. So there are 46 views of Mount Fuji in the book entitled 36 views of Mount Fuji, which is nice.

Watermill at Onden By Katsushika Hokusai – Source: http://visipix.com/index.htm , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=313251

A great online resource of Hokusai’s work is at https://www.katsushikahokusai.org/ where you can order a “hand painted reproduction” of 578 of his paintings… but if it’s a hand painted reproduction it’s a fake isn’t it? Surely no better than a digital reproduction of Hokusai’s original, does it’s hand paintedness, by someone other than the original artist, give it higher artistic status? Hmmm…

High, as in High Art: as opposed to low art. The usual following word to low would be ‘brow’ and the high or low brow aspect of something denotes a cleverness, an idea of the things artistic value. This is an idea that often occurs to me, who are the arbiters of an art works status? Why is opera revered when musicals are, usually, seen as mere entertainment? Is popularity in itself enough to assign value to art? In Mozart’s own time he was a rock star, was he seen as high art? Yeah probably but time passing has strengthened that opinion.

Within Film certainly there is a perceived high/low difference, but time seems to change that too. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was a schlock crowd pleasing entertainment when it was released in the 60s but 50 years on it is seen as art. I would suggest anyone who hasn’t seen the film to give it a go and after watch the superb documentary on Netflix “Sad Hill Unearthed” see trailer below. That said I don’t think the Emoji movie will ever become high art no matter how many millennia pass.

Popularity seems to lessen an art works ‘seriousness’ but the most popular postcard and reproduction of art is Van Gogh’s Sunflowers which is also the top of the art value chart, makes no sense. Funding for the arts is a hidden world of who gets what, Opera gets tons of cash for very few audience and small reach but is seen as elite whereas street dance gets hardly anything and is enjoyed and participated in by loads.

And to get back to my fave art form, comics, much of it is mere entertainment but some of the works of Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore (fill in your own in the comments below) are undoubtedly great works of high art, in my opinion.

Incidentally the above comic will be on sale at my eBay account later today at a bargain price check it out at https://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/gsmokeyjoe019ffg if you want, 🙂

Thanks for reading, be great to hear your thoughts on high/low or pretty much anything else, check out the vids below and feel free to read my previous posts, ta ta for now, gary

2 thoughts on “H is for Hockney, Hokusai & High”

    1. Wasn’t Miss Wong on a wall in an 80s sitcom? Bread maybe? still looks kitsch to me, does that make me a snob? cheers for commenting, x

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