Hockney exhibition proves top draw for Ulster art aficionados

Pupils gather for a tour of the Hockney exhibition at the MAC
Pupils gather for a tour of the Hockney exhibition at the MAC

The critically acclaimed David Hockney exhibition at the MAC in Belfast is proving a massive ‘draw’ with school children across Northern Ireland, with almost 700 visiting the presentation since it opened on August 19.

The ‘I Draw, I Do’ exhibition by the Yorkshire-born artist, is the first major showing of his work in Ireland and is one of the most popular events to be hosted by the MAC.

To date, the MAC has welcomed 661 pupils from 27 schools taking part in tours of the world-famous exhibition, with a further 15 more schools pencilled in before the exhibition comes to an end on October 16. This figure has smashed the MAC’s target of 20 school tours.

Some 15,000 art fans from Northern Ireland and further afield have already visited the exhibition and thousands more are expected before its close.

The show focuses on Hockney’s formative years at Bradford Regional College of Art in the 1950s as well as significant later works including his iPad portraits of family and friends.

British artist Hockney was an important contributor to the pop art movement led by Andy Warhol and others in the 1960s. Hockney is also a noted set designer, printmaker and photographer as well as an exquisite draughtsman who has been responsible for vividly colourful landscapes and portraits throughout a career that has spanned numerous preoccupations, stylistic changes and technological innovations - the artist’s most recent work using ipad technology shows how he has always remained willing to develop art in new ways according to the trends and practices that are at the front of the tech vanguard.

With homes in London, California, Hollywood and Yorkshire, Hockney has always been interested in capturing English and American cultural preoccupations as well as their particular landscapes and people. His work remains distinctive in its use of colour which seems to recall the boldness and flambuoyance of palette we see in the work of artists such as Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh.

Much of his work might best be described as expressionist in style and the artist has recurrently worked in acrylics to explore a kind of two-dimensional almost illustrative style that has not kept to the kind of realism perfected by the great masters of portraiture. His portaits are intimate and playful but tend to appear whimsical and superficial as though Hockney’s first love were design or impressionistic appearances rather than truth.

Hugh Mulholland, senior curator at the MAC, said: “David Hockney is one of the greatest living artists and we are delighted to be presenting this first major collection of his work in Ireland. We expected his exhibition to be a huge attraction for students, particularly given the focus on his early experiences at art school. However the numbers of school children who are fascinated by his work has surpassed our expectations.”

The title of the exhibition came from an answer Hockney gave to a question posed to him by designer Paul Smith: “Do you still draw in the more traditional way, in the way you first did when you left the Royal College?” Hockney replied: “Yeah, I draw, I do……from the age of 16 to the age of 20, all I did was really draw, because I was at the art school in Bradford and in Bradford you could be in the school from nine in the morning to nine at night.”

It’s not just students who are flocking to the exhibition. The MAC has welcomed families of all ages to explore the exhibition during its Hockney family weekend.

From creative painting workshops to family-friendly tours, there has been a great deal on offer for families looking for an exciting day out in the city.

The exhibition is free to view at the MAC which is open from 10am-7pm daily. For more information visit themaclive.com.