When David Hockney discovered he could create works of art on an iPhone, he was excited by the possibilities – and the fact that he could work from the comfort of his bed.
The device was the latest piece of technology to fire his imagination. Between 2009 and 2012, Hockney captured changing seasons and fleeting moments from a window of his former home in Yorkshire, first with an iPhone, then an iPad.
Now 120 of those images have been selected for a major publication, most of them never having been seen before. Each composition displays Hockney’s trademark palette of vibrant colours. Some are more abstract than others, exploring the interplay of light, a fiery sunset or the arrival of spring. Some look out on to nearby houses. Others focus on changing skies or seasonal blooms and pot plants on a window sill.
Bradford-born Hockney, 82, is a painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer with an endless passion for experimentation. His masterpieces include A Bigger Splash (1967), in which he captured the shimmering sparkle of a turquoise pool under the intense light of the California sky. His interest in technology has included working with Polaroids, fax machines and digital video as well as the iPhone and iPad as tools for painting.
Hans Werner Holzwarth, a book designer and editor who collaborated with Hockney on a previous publication, was taken aback when he first saw the images on the artist’s iPhone. He immediately saw the potential of publishing them together, because there are “so many amazing pictures”.
Now a vast edition, titled David Hockney: My Window, will be brought out by art book publisher Taschen next month. Holzwarth said that there were many more images than the 120 he chose with the artist.
He believes that “pictures should speak for themselves” and – beyond captions which record only the number, the date and whether it is an iPhone or iPad creation – the only text in the book is a brief foreword by the artist.
“My Window describes flowers and the sunrise in Bridlington, East Yorkshire,” writes Hockney. “I started on the iPhone in 2009 … there was great advantage in this medium because it’s backlit and I could draw in the dark. I didn’t ever have to get out of bed. Everything I needed was on the iPhone.” He notes, too, that he drew on the iPhone with his thumb and, when the iPad became available, he used a stylus, allowing him to “get more details in”.
Forty-four images were created on an iPhone, the rest on an iPad. Holzwarth said a notable difference is that those done with the artist’s thumb display much wider and rougher strokes.
He said of the collection: “For me, it’s really the joy of looking out into the world and getting this positive energy.” He pointed to details such as lines of light that burst through a shutter, raindrops on a window and distant lights at night.
He described the works as an exploration of the relationship between inside and outside: “It’s opening up our vision, and how we look.”
Holzwarth added: “There’s maybe one or two somewhere published in other contexts, but not as a real body of work. It was not exhibited like this … together in a book, that makes it interesting because it has a different narration.
“It’s a kind of sketchbook … he’s sketching every day. For him, depicting the world is an ongoing moment. So the iPhone or the iPad is the perfect media for this.”
Holzwarth collaborated with the artist on Taschen’s David Hockney: A Bigger Book (2016), the largest volume ever devoted to his art. While surveying works for that volume, he came across the iPhone images. It was a “wow moment”, he recalled.