David Hockney began his printmaking career in 1954 as a student at the Bradford College of Art. In the 80s, a new technology got him to experiment with a new technique.
“Anyone who likes drawing or mark-making would like to explore new media. I’m not a mad technical person, but anything visual appeals to me. In linocuts, for example, everything has to be bold. You don’t make tiny, thin lines in a linocut, it would be too niggly. But get an etching plate, it’s all about fine lines. Anybody who draws will enjoy that sort of variety of graphic medium: because it requires inventiveness.“
In February of 1986, Hockney began using a friend’s copy machine and he discovered right away it was, in fact, a new type of printing machine.
“Over the years I’ve made a lot of prints working with several different master printshops. It’s an exciting process, but I’ve always been bothered by the lack of spontaneity: how it takes hours and hours, working alongside several master craftsmen, to generate an image. How you’re continually having to interrupt the process of creation from one moment to the next for technical reasons.
But with these copying machines, I can work by myself — indeed you virtually have to work by yourself; there’s nothing for anyone else to do — and I can work with great speed and responsiveness. In fact, this is the closest I’ve ever come in printing to what it’s like to paint: I can put something down, evaluate it, alter it, revise it, all in a matter of seconds.“
Printing with the copy machine is similar to a traditional print. Each colour is drawn onto a separate sheet of paper. That colour is then printed onto each sheet of the edition. Once one colour has been completed, the printed sheets are loaded back into the machine and a sheet with another, separate colour is placed on the copy bed.
But the way Hockney utilised the copy machine is unique.
“My interest in the [copying] machine was philosophical really. I realised it was a printing machine and a camera of a new kind.
I’ve always been interested in printing as a medium, and also as a medium through which my work can be known — can reach a public. So I’ve taken an interest in any technology to do with image-making: printing, cameras, reproduction itself.
I love new mediums. I think mediums can turn you on, they can excite you; they always let you do something in a different way. Even if you take the same subject, if you draw it in a different way, or if you are forced to simplify it — to make it bold because it is too finicky — I like that.”
Hockey’s Home Made Prints series is offered in Contemporary Edition Christie’s online sale, through July 17. The prints range from an estimate of $2000 to $6,000 which might seem expensive for a xerox copy, but seems like a great deal for a David Hockey print.
(Photos, Christies; via Christies)