ayla marika

February 18, 2016 David Hockney’s Splashes Posted In: Uncategorized

At those times that I want to capture and refresh my visualisation of a perfect first world society and the beautiful simple artificiality of modern living, there are two works I always refer back to. One of them is the music video ‘Remind Me by Royksopp (directed by H5) which I discussed earlier. The other is ‘The Splash’ by Hockney, displayed on the left. I had the opportunity to stand in front of The Bigger Splash at the Tate Britain earlier this year, but have not seen The Splash in real life.


David Hockney, The Splash. 1966.

When I researched this painting, I discovered a few things about this painting which I’ll discuss, that confirm my feelings about it. But to start, I should describe those initial feelings through some automatic writing, and try not to adopt the terminology that I’ve just read critics using….

All that is reflected in this painting. The less freedom I have, somehow makes me aware that freedom is just a mindframe, and Hockney’s pools celebrate that freedom of mind. But there is also something suppressed there, things laid out too perfect and too clean, even though life cannot be perfect… something must be wrong even if I can’t see it, and it’s more disconcerting when it’s wrong and I can’t see it… it means it must be big, a big problem, a big mistake, an almost universal mistake. In the background there is environmental destruction and collapse of third world communities at the cost of our ignorant, selfish hedonistic lifestyles. But then again, swimming in a pool is fun and I’ve worked for it, so stop judging me. Argh, how it simultaneously calms and frustrates me. It’s a first-world neurosis.

The splash is actually a series of three paintings – “The Little Splash” (which cannot be seen, as it is in a private collection – there aren’t even pictures on the internet), “The Splash” and “A Bigger Splash”. Pictured here are “The Splash” and “A Bigger Splash”. The series was a response to Hockney moving to California after finishing his art study in London. After living in London where a pool was rare and could not be used for most of the year, Hockney was amazed to find every household in California had and used a pool all year around. Houses were air-conditioned from the heat and adorned with a level of sheltered, modern luxury he felt he needed to capture.


David Hockney, A Bigger Splash. 1967. 2425 x 2439mm. Tate Britain.

As for working process, Hockney completed the painting (minus splash) relatively quickly, but then painstakingly painted the splash using a variety of small brushes to get it was accurate as possible. He commented how he enjoyed the idea of spending weeks capturing this perfect splash, which in reality took 2 seconds to happen, and how this made the painting much more powerful than a photograph of a splash ever could. It is also interesting how the splash really doesn’t appear hand painted at all, it looks like, well, paint was splashed on it. That makes it more powerful still, like the way the memory of a significant split second moment seems to linger forever. Or how the after image of a powerful visual floats on walls and objects and closed eyelids for several moments after disappearing.

As these paintings indicate, Hockney preferred to paint and draw those environments and people around him. He didn’t feel particular need to go out and seek the exotic. His subject matter was local.