David Hockney (b. 1937)
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David Hockney (b. 1937)

With Conversation

David Hockney (b. 1937)
With Conversation
signed, titled and dated 'Table with conversation David Hockney 1988' (on the reverse)
acrylic on two joined canvases
35¾ x 84in. (91 x 213.5cm.)
Painted in 1988
Paul Witt and Susan Harris, New York.
L.A. Louver, Venice.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1997.
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, The School of London and Their Friends: the Collection of Elaine and Melvin Merians, October 2000-January 2001, no. 37 (illustrated in colour, p. 78 and on the cover). This exhibition later travelled to Purchase, Neuberger Museum of Art, January-May 2001.
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Lot Essay

With Conversation represents a period where David Hockney began to explore a new range of vision, eschewing traditional perspective and channelling his love of French colourist painting.

The two-part canvas is a panorama, depicting an interior scene from Hockney's Hollywood Hills studio that opens up and converges into an exterior view of fractured, abstracted planes that hint at hills, sky and shafts of light. With Conversation combines Hockney's love of Cubist perspective theories, as represented by the colourfully faceted vase and tipped up table with its trompe-l'oeil wood grain, with a new appreciation of Chinese scroll painting. Hockney had purchased George Rowley's The Principles of Chinese Scroll Painting in 1983 and had since adopted the horizontal format that allowed the Chinese to convey the limitless space of nature, unconfined to a single view, that allowing the viewer to visually move though the vista.

Hockney abandoned depicting the figure for much these fauve-like works, though their presence is still hinted at. The vacant chair emphasises the absence of people and can be seen as tribute to Vincent Van Gogh's chair paintings, a subject Hockney would return to repeatedly. The relative security of the table and chair invites the viewer in to the painting, and demands that the eye move across the picture plane into the fractured, shifting exterior, in a manner that echoes the right to left movement through a Chinese scroll. The three vertical forms with cast shadows to the left stabilise the abstract composition and suggest embracing or conversing figures or even plant life and architecture, but their significance remains elusive. With Conversation perfectly embodies Hockney's statement: 'I like clarity, but I also like ambiguity: you can have both in the same painting, and I think you should.' (D. Hockney, That's the Way I See It, London 1993, p. 152). The energetic colour and simplified forms are a reflection of his ceaseless pictorial experimentation and signals the transition into his wholly abstract work of the 1990s.

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