It’s been fifty years since David Hockney graduated from the Royal College of Art wearing a gold lamé jacket. Within a few years he had earned a reputation as an enfant terrible whose risqué autobiographical work touched upon the taboo subject of homosexuality. With his oversized spectacles and hair dyed silvery blond, he became Brit art’s first celebrity: a charmer whose personality beguiled the public as much as his work.
Fast-forward half a century, and Hockney is still feted and adored. He shed his skin of provocative wunderkind long ago, fashioning instead a role as a plain-speaking chain-smoker specializing in common sense. A global sensation, his exhibitions in London, New York, Paris and beyond attract millions of visitors worldwide. Following the death of Lucian Freud, he is routinely described as Britain’s greatest living painter. Now entering his ninth decade, Hockney shows absolutely no evidence of slowing down or losing his trademark boldness.
The film focuses on two blockbuster exhibitions of recent work at The Royal Academy of Arts: A Bigger Picture (2012) and 82 Portraits and One Still Life (2016). With privileged access the camera lingers through the halls, providing plenty of time to truly relish the paintings. Director Grabsky has also obviously put Hockney at ease, allowing their intimate conversation to flow naturally and go deep. Here we don’t just look at portraits: we hear the lifetime’s worth of stories behind them. The result is a cinematic celebration of a 21st-century master of creativity.