New Perspectives for New Contexts – David Hockney iPad

David Hockney iPad

David Hockney iPad.

The Bigger Picture

  • Course Title. Digital Media Production.
  • Unit Title. New Perspectives for New Contexts. Ref. IMD506. Level 5.
  • Course Tutor. Amanda Stephenson.
  • Completed. 23/03/2012

David Hockney has a history of embracing and experimenting with new technology and this has recently come to the attention of both the public and the artistic world again with his use of the iPad, iPhone and Video as an artists tool and medium. The aim of this study is to discuss how Hockney’s current high profile use of the iPad and other digital technology will effect contemporary art and its place in the cultural definition of what is considered fine art, which is now being created using this digital technology. In addition, to look at how digital technology has found general acceptance among artists and the public as a method of creating artworks. David Hockney, arguably one of `England’s most celebrated living artist’ (Parson, R. 27/02/2012), and his use of digital technology specifically the iPhone and iPad in the creation of his latest artworks has caught the imagination of the media, fellow artists and the general public. For it is Hockney’s use of this new technology, the iPad and iPhone in particular, which have come to the attention of the worlds media, this creating as much interest as the exhibition and the artworks on display themselves. These artworks, currently on display at the ‘Royal Academy of Arts’ feature prints; oil paintings and watercolours covering many of the walls of the gallery, many of which were created using the iPad.

This move away from the traditional painting methods to using the latest in digital technology could be construed as an evolutionary change in the fine arts establishment. With the current acceptance of celebrated artists using this new digital technology growing, this could be seen as only leading to the eventual replacement of many of the traditional methods of creating artworks, that is, those artists using the sketchbook and then painting directly onto canvas using oil and watercolour. However, this will almost certainly not be the case, there is still a place for the traditional methods. The technological advances introduced by the iPad and similar developments in digital video, 3D and Holographic projection may end up just being no more than another tool in the artist’s toolbox.

Fig 1.0 iPad David Hockney

Fig 1.0 An untitled iPad drawing by the Artist David Hockney

Hockney’s pioneering use of new technology in the creation of his latest exhibited work includes; oil paintings, watercolours and prints made directly from the sketches produced on the iPad and so it immediately appears the traditional methods still have their place.

Hockney says

At first you think it’s a bit of a novelty, it took me a while to realise it’s quite a serious tool you can use and it took me a while to get skilful on it. Skill is practice. It’s not just a novelty. I realised this is a clever tool you can use. He added: The iPad is very direct. I would point out [that] Turner used watercolour because it was a quicker medium than oil-painting so you could quickly get down more fleeting effects. If you find a medium that’s even faster than that any artist is going to be interested in it. (Hockney 2012)

Here Hockney extols some of the benefits of using the iPad, the ability in being able to produce artworks quickly he considers to be one of the most important benefits to using the iPad over the any other artists medium.

Hockney then goes on to say

It’s a very serious medium. It’s just a newer one and it affects the way you do things. You couldn’t have had impressionism without the invention of the collapsible tube so you could take paints outside. Technology affects things all the time and it certainly does pictures. I follow it; I follow that aspect of technology. And I’ve no doubt it is a marvellous new tool. (Hockney 2012)

Another example of how Hockney’s work is directly influenced by the advances in digital technology and the direction it has taken him is a unique perspective of a landscape displayed at the gallery using a Video wall showing a scene of a Bridlington Landscape as it transforms over the seasons. This artwork produced using grid of nine cameras, three wide and three high, each with a slightly different perspective recording the same landscape; its movement, the swaying of the trees, leaves and the grass and the changing of the seasons colours. These videos are displayed on a video wall of eighteen screens, nine showing the images as recorded, the other nine displaying the same images but using a different timeline. The viewer chooses which videos to view, their eyes moving across the video wall seeing the same landscape but from different perspectives and as the landscapes seasons change from winter to spring. The viewer has effectively chosen a unique perspective, two people standing side by side will view the landscape differently just by their choice of screen to view and the order that they look at them.

As the iPad and iPhone find general acceptance in the Arts community as a tool for creating fine art does this have other ramifications beyond the acceptance of the iPad as the means to create artworks? Will we see a wider acceptance of what is considered Art? Will the digital artist become the norm, the iPad replacing traditional methods and art forms, which may then soon be consigned to History?

Fig 2.0 An untitled iPad drawing by the Artist David Hockney

Fig 2.0 An untitled iPad drawing by the Artist David Hockney

“I draw flowers every day,” he said, “and I send them to my friends, so they get fresh blooms every morning. And my flowers last.” (Hockney 2012)

For an example of digital technology replacing traditional methods you need only to look to the Book and Book Publication, we are already witnessing the demise of the Book in its current form, the traditionally printed text on paper bound in a soft or hard cover. The rapid growth of Ebooks or in this context iBooks will inevitably replace the traditional book and consign it to History, the demise of the traditional book, its passing recorded in an Ebook.

‘The more I got into the iPad, the more I realised what a fantastic medium it is for landscape. There are certain things that you can do very, very quickly using it. (Hockney 2012)

How long before the flat screen displays and projectors displaying Artworks replace the oil painting, the canvases and photographs adorning our walls? This process is already happening, visit a Museum or Gallery now and you can already see the video projections, the video displays used in contemporary exhibitions, they have already found acceptance and their place as a means of displaying Art to the public.

As with all technology given time the cost begins to fall. It is already possible to purchase a digital photo frame for displaying the family photographs; the family holiday, which can be hung in place of the traditional canvas or frame, indeed as much now as in the future replacing the need to print the photograph. Less costly and easier to produce, combined with the rapid advancement of display technology it will soon become possible for the walls of homes themselves to become artworks, that can be ever changing, a slideshow of art displaying a different scene or artwork determined by the home owner and covering an entire wall.

Artists have embraced photography as a medium, it is an artwork in its own right and used as an artists tool used in place of the sketchpad in a similar fashion to Hockney’s use of the iPad to replace the sketchpad. The evolutionary change now is the move away from photographs produced using film to digital technology. This progression to digital technology opens up the possibility for further digital manipulation of the photograph, in fact an endless number of possibilities for alteration, styling and enhancement using digital imaging tools. But within the world of Fine Art the photograph had yet to find the same level of acceptance and value as an example the oil paintings that is until the recent auction of a photograph by German artist “Andreas Gursky, which sold for $4.3m (£2.7m) at Christie’s auction in New York, thus setting a new world record for a photograph.

Fig 3.0 Andreas Gursky's Rhine II

Fig 3.0 Andreas Gursky's Rhine II

The price paid normally associated with the sale of an oil painting by a grand master. Hockney’s work created using the iPad can be measured against the success of the current exhibition. The associated media attraction has elevated the iPad as an artist’s tool and as such artworks created using the iPad will eventually if they have not already find similar success in the Fine Art auction sales.

When considering how this use of digital technology and the effect it will have on future artworks it would be beneficial to look back at a similar period of evolution. From the modernist period and artworks created in the post modernist period. The increasing use of photography and film depicting a two dimensional reality, rather than the traditional painting with its pseudo third dimensional effect giving the painting a semblance of depth, but paying usually only limited acknowledgement to the reality of the scene.

The first and most evident is the emergence of a new kind of flatness or depthlessness, a new kind of superficiality in the most literal sense, perhaps the supreme formal feature of all the postmodernisms (Jameson 1991)

Rather than a revolutionary change, the use of the new digital technology in contemporary artwork creation can be viewed as a further step in the evolution for the creation of artworks.

First consider the traditional methods, for example comparing the surreal works of Salvador Dali and his modernist style paintings for example ‘The Persistence of Memory’ with little resemblance to reality. Then contrast this to Andy Warhol’s artworks, in particular the postmodernist picture of ‘Campbell’s Soups’ surely the epitome of the postmodern ideal. A picture, effectively of a tin of soup in all its two dimensional reality. Then consider the methods used to create these artworks, Salvador Dali’s pictures created in oils whilst Andy Warhol’s were screen-printed onto canvas, using acrylics. Now consider the use of digital technology, the images created on an iPad and printed either directly or used like a sketchbook with the final picture painted onto canvas using oils.

Fig 4.0 Salvidor Dali, The Persistence of Memory

Fig 4.0 Salvidor Dali, The Persistence of Memory

This is art in evolution, rather than revolution, the iPad another tool in the artist toolkit. This is surely at the centre of postmodernism in its relation to art, the approach of producing traditional art forms by using non-traditional methods. It should also be noted that not all artists have embraced these new methods and still prefer to work in the traditional ways, using traditional methods to create their artworks with the artworks themselves showing the subject in its reality.

Fig 5.0 Andy Warhol's, Campbells Soup

Fig 5.0 Andy Warhol's, Campbells Soup

Hockney as mentioned previously, is no stranger to technology and has previously pioneered the use of technology to create his artworks, for example using photographs in collages to create his artworks, depicting a landscape. The most famous example possibly being the ‘Pearblossom Highway’, which was produced in 1986 as a photographic collage used to represent a landscape of the pictures title.

Fig 6.0 David Hockney, Pearlblossom Highway

Fig 6.0 David Hockney, Pearlblossom Highway

He has produced artworks using the humble, and now almost consigned to history Fax machine. Each fax page forming a part of the larger collage, thus creating a picture on a grand scale. Scale is something that Hockney refers back to again and again, for it is an important factor in his artwork. We can therefore deduce from this recent exhibition, this recent embracement of the iPad and iPhone is but a natural progression for Hockney. As the new digital technology becomes available he will almost certainly experiment with it and use it for the creation of his new artworks. Previously and where other artists may have already used the iPad, it can now be said that Hockney’s higher profile as a professional and celebrated Artist can therefore only lead to the acceleration of other artist to follow in his footsteps. We can therefore safely conclude a future a place for the iPad and similar devices in the contemporary art world and with some confidence. The use of the iPad may well become the medium of choice for many future artists. Particularly as the range of art and graphic design applications are developed to entice artists both professional and amateur. The iPad could be all the tools the Artists needs to take with them as they venture out to capture a Landscape. The iPad, replacing the Artists sketch pad, pencils and charcoal is certain, for as Hockney said ‘it is very fast and this is what an Artist considers important when creating an Artwork’ (Hockney, 2012).  Using the iPad to quickly capture the light at just the right time, in a constantly changing landscape from glorious sunlight to a morose landscape beset by shadows and dark crevices as the clouds obscure the light and the suns position changes. iPad what next? New technology is already available to the artist to explore, the wider acceptance of 3D technology in the world of film, television and the growing interest in Holographic technology as a medium may well if not already soon find acceptance by contemporary artists as a means of creating future artworks. Digital video technology is also having its effect on the contemporary artist, Hockney has already used video in his current artworks and we can assume that this will be a medium, which he will utilise in the future.

Hockey’s use of the iPad and iPhone as a means of sketching and producing artworks is just another, but significant, step in the evolution of contemporary art as artists further explore the possibilities of using these digital tools. His ideas of the grand scale, a theme that he returns to again and again, creating ever-larger artworks for exhibition, he says are due in the main to his use of the iPad, using it to visualise the Bigger Picture from the individual parts broken down on the iPad’s screen. Yet and in counterbalance to the this use of this technology Hockney returns to the traditional methods, the painting of oil on canvas and the watercolour to produce many of his current artworks. This is not the end of traditional methods for creating art as there is something satisfying about owning an oil painting, a print or indeed a photograph, we may safely concur that the traditional and new digital methods will continue to complement each other for some time to come.

However, just as assuredly the use of this new technology can only continue to influence artists and they’re methods of working and indeed their artworks. The definition of what is Fine Art has now been irrevocably changed as digital artists find greater acceptance. With this acceptance there comes a wider audience, with galleries embracing the technology for major public exhibitions and therefore reaching more people. Indeed, as new digital technology is added to the toolbox of the contemporary artist the definition of what is fine art will have to evolve to follow these developments and the method of displaying this art. The artist’s ever-growing toolbox originally just containing the brushes; its oils, acrylic and watercolour paints now complimented by the addition of the iPad and the iPhone. The artworks produced in a day and not just destined for gallery display but also uploaded for the world to see on the Internet.

“I draw flowers every day,” he said, “and I send them to my friends, so they get fresh blooms every morning. And my flowers last.” (Hockney 2012)




  • Hockney. D. Hockney Pictures. [Accessed 3rd February 2012]
  • Caine. M. Channel 4 News. [Accessed 4th February 2012]
  • Jameson, F. 1991. Postmodernism, or, The cultural logic of late capitalism. USA: Duke University Press, 1991
  • Author Anonymous. Fredric Jameson / postmodernism: depthlessness [Accessed 15th February 2012]
  • Culture Show. 2012 [TV Programme] BBC2 Monday 27th Feb 2012 19:00. Andrew Marr interviews David Hockney about his newest exhibition A Bigger Picture. Director. Parson R.

This Essay is not one of my best efforts, apparently there is room for improvement and I got the Bibliography wrong – using Bullet points is a no no and I should have identified in the quote using a number for example (1) (2) – you get the idea. I spent too much time future casting what will be the effect of the iPad  on future artworks rather than analysing what is the effect on fine art now, which was not what I was aiming for, I meant to future cast.

OK I got a pass and better than average but I still suck at Essays 🙁