To any student of the Fine Arts or the History thereof, (or, unavoidably both, for how else could it be these days?), David Hockney's revelations of Secret Knowledge must surely come as a shock. The secrets that he reveals are now so terribly obvious, how one could have ever thought otherwise? And it is also a relief, a resolution to what, for me, has been a long standing crisis, the tyranny of talent.
There are, no doubt, millions of teenagers who, as I, nursed some talent in the visual arts. I pursued pencil and watercolor, then oils and acrylics. I was good with clay, and had some runs at sculpting architectural spaces. My few efforts at realism resulted in oils that might, with some considerable effort, be said to vaguely resemble those of Giotto. I think it is no accident that Giotto figures so prominently in Hockney's book: for his images most closely resemble those of every aspiring second-rate student. And, as students, we all knew (were told) that somehow, only after much effort, we might ever be so lucky to develop a talent even remotely approaching that of any classical master. Whoa be the student of modern art education; and may David Hockney lift those weights and yokes.
Crises are never crises to the young, indeed, for how is one to know? What experience can one gauge against? Crisis is something that one must grow older to experience: one must not only fail, but one must be wise enough to know that one has failed, and take that to mean something, ather than youthfully shrugging it off. And one must be old enough to know the finiteness of life, that one may not, indeed, have much more time to get it right. When I left Art to pursue a technical career, I didn't know it was due to a crisis. I'm sure I could have rationalized it in many ways. For example: I had talent but lacked inspiration; I had nothing to say or do, and no amount of mind-altering substances would change that. That they would help bring that great revelation of every Art student, of de Kooning's genius, is of no matter. You could be versed in the theories of Bauhaus and the theory of theory, you could style yourself as good as Jackson Pollack, but to not be Reubens or Rembrant, that was a failing that could never ever be overcome. You might get away with murder in Modern Art, but foreshortening was the tell-tale heart that haunted everyone who wasn't deaf to the voices of teachers and peers. They knew. Piss Christ, Hockney wash away our sins.
Let us begin with the obvious: you will be entertained by these words only if you are an initiate, an acolyte, and quite probably, not even then. So let me strike a serious, mysterious, scientific tone. In any case, the nature of humour is that it perishes quickly, so why should I try with dry, wry wit? Clowns are rarely scholars, and serious business is never a joking matter. aPBS: Mind-Altering Television. aTo the educated, to the cognisenti, to acolytes initiates, lectors aof knowledge -- the need to be explicit, writing sacred and profane, expository and academic style. -- On the nature of entertainment -- on showing the means & mechanism of creation -- to say, to say visually, to show, and does it matter for all are legitamate routes to the heroin of experience