In this assignment, I will be critically evaluating David Hockney’s work entitled “Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool” and Banksy’s work entitled “Rage the Flower Thrower”.
I will begin by discussing modernism and compare this to postmodernism and explain how postmodernism moves away from modernism.
Both my artists come from the field of postmodernism, with David Hockney being of Early Postmodernism and Banksy of Late Postmodernism.
To understand this time in the world of art, we need to reflect upon the history both prior and during the times of my two chosen artists.
I hope you enjoy reading.
Modernism and modern art:
Modernism and modern art can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, a period that began in Britain and lasted from the 18th to the 19th Century. It was a time of great and rapid changes in manufacturing, transportation and technology, which in turn profoundly affected the social, economic and cultural conditions of life in Europe, North America and eventually the world as a whole.
(Reference: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017)
New forms of travel including the steam trains, railways, undergrounds, steam ships and trams changed the way people lived, worked and played. Indeed, the availability of travel opened up new horizons and the sharing of ideals.
As cities and towns grew, workers arrived on mass into the new towns and cities seeking work in industrial jobs and urban populations boomed.
(Reference: History.com, Staff 2009)
The impact upon art cannot be understated, as prior to the 19th Century; artists very much relied upon commissions to make art work on behalf of wealthy patrons, or institutions such as the church.
Much of this art displayed religious scenes, or mythological scenes that told stories that were intended to instruct the observer.
During the 19th Century, artists began to make art about people, places, or ideas that interested them, and of which they had direct experience.
With the publication of Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1899), and the popularisation of the idea of a subconscious mind, many artists began exploring dreams, symbolism and personal iconography as avenues to display their experiences.
(Reference: “Die Traumdeutung” – Dr. Sigmund Freud, Franz Denticke, Lepzig & Vienna, 1899)
Examples of modernist artists of this period include Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne, both tried to capture in their works what it was like to be in the scene.
(References: “The Collected Works of Claude Monet”, Delphi Classics, 2011 and “Cezanne A Life”, Alex Danchev, Pantheon, 2012).
Modernism was fundamentally restrictive of ideas and concentrated more on specific ideas and the idea of purity.
It relied upon truth and not illusion – the artist did not try to pretend – they concentrated upon the picture and physical painting.
I believe, in terms of aesthetics, they relied upon harmony of colour and form and weren’t too bothered about what was painted, but more with how it was painted.
The emergence of Postmodernism:
There is no specific date that we can pin-point the emergence of Postmodernism to, but it seems to have really reached its peak by the middle of the 1970’s and one of the key figures of this period was David Hockney.
Postmodernism greatly affected many aspects of human life (mainly in Western cultures). Areas impacted included art, education, literature, film, social sciences, sexuality, politics and technology. My two chosen artists were greatly impacted by this, as I’ll explain later on in this assignment.
Postmodernism seemed to emerge and grow following the major events of the early 20th Century, namely two World Wars, the rise and demise of the Nazi’s, the emergence and continued rise and threat of Communism, the dropping of two atomic bombs upon Japan and the fear that war would break out at any moment. With communist Soviet Union, attacking America and its allies and even that Soviet Union and America may use atomic weapons.
Both David Hockney and Banksy make statements about war and weapons in some pieces of their works and speeches and indeed David attended CND marches as you’ll read later and Banksy drew pictures such as “Mona Lisa with Rocket Launcher”.
These fears were not unfounded, when in 1965 America invaded Vietnam, because America’s leaders feared the rise of Communism in the Far East.
Men publicly burnt their draft papers in New York and the impact of the Vietnam conflict arrived in the living rooms of society. As the Vietnam War was the first televised war, in turn, this fuelled a lot of protest with what was going on – ordinary people protested and society was moving towards anarchy.
Hopefully, you’ll see later on in this assignment that Banksy in particular promotes anarchy and the work I have chosen by him symbolises anarchy.
By 1968, it was clear that there was going to be a huge number of casualties in the war and people started to take action to stop the war. This action spread around the world and John Lennon (Beatles fame), wrote the song “Imagine”, that became a rallying cry to stop the war and this spread around the world.
Additionally, in 1968 the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia as the Czech’s had elected Alexander Dubcek as their leader and the Soviet Union didn’t like him.
The Soviet Union sent tanks into the centre of the Czech capital Prague and the residents were pictured on television channels (broadcasted around the world), standing on the streets in front of the tanks in the vain effort of stopping them moving forward.
The Soviet Union showed no mercy and rolled the tanks forward and dealt harshly with the citizens that had protested.
The work I chose by Banksy is of a similar event in Romania and is explained later, but was conveniently painted in the Middle East (Jerusalem), at the same time as a homosexual protest riot and the painting invokes debate as to its true intentions.
Banksy in his book “Banksy Wall and Peace” pages 42 and 43 confirms the work relates to the Romanian Revolution, but it has invoked debate since its creation. (Simpson: 2005, pg43)
In Paris, in 1968, students protested about the lack of change in the education system. These protests spread across all educational backgrounds and classes.
Again, just like in Prague, the French government violently prevented the riot and this was televised by the media. The French government was widely criticised for their actions and handling of the riots.
In London in 1969, we had the London Protest March, which was successful in ensuring that 1969 was the year we saw the last intake of men to National Service. There was a real sense of freedom that now young men did not have to enter the armed forces, and this freedom of no-longer having do military service was to impact greatly on my chosen artist – David Hockney, as I will discuss later in this assignment.
This sense of freedom in London was boosted by high employment; high credit and we saw the “baby boom”.
We saw the emergence of the hippy culture and the real emergence of a sense of dissatisfaction of the superpowers and consumerism. Society no longer trusted their leaders and started to question leadership and order behind things and decisions being taken.
Banksy’s picture certainly invokes taking action against leadership.
Society was now prepared to challenge and there was a rise in the use of pressure groups that openly challenged and raised protest and debate, and again, Banksy’s picture portrays this.
We saw a rise of technology from the 1950’s and this had been embraced as possibly a good thing. By the mid-late 1960’s society started to believe that money invested into things such as the “space race” and nuclear weapons could be better spent on charitable purposes and health care, and David Hockney took a strong stance on nuclear weapons.
During this time Hockney designed political posters for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, attended the 1958 march to atomic weapons research centre at Aldermaston, subscribed to “Peace News” and became a militant vegetarian and handing out leaflets condemning cruelty to animals.
The 1968 “Moon Landing”, was however seen by many as the pinnacle of human achievement, but people questioned the cost involved and the motives.
The people of the United Kingdom witnessed disillusionment, as in 1964, Harold Wilson had been elected as a Labour Prime Minister following 13 years of Conservative government.
People in the United Kingdom had honestly thought that the United Kingdom would become a classless society, but by the late 1960’s it was clear this hadn’t happened and direct action and protest groups began to emerge.
At the same time, there was disillusionment in the USA and this was no more apparent than in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963.
Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, leading to many of his followers engaging in civil disobedience, and indeed my chosen artist Banksy seemingly advocates civil disobedience, as I’ll discuss later.
Huey P Newton co-founded the “Black Panthers” – they were committed to helping Afro-American youths understand their heritage.
The “Black Panthers” were strongly opposed to the Vietnam War – black soldier’s deaths were disproportionately higher than white soldier’s deaths.
Artists such as Emory Douglas emerged as an artist of the “Black Panthers”
Black studies entered mainstream education as a result of pressure by the “Black Panthers” and this fuelled radical views in society that the black struggle couldn’t be ignored any longer.
The radicalised believers, believe in subversion (i.e. overthrowing the government), and we see protest in art education and the values of the institution especially in universities, and indeed, Banksy falls into this category.
I have selected two specific works to discuss. The first is by Banksy and the second is by David Hockney:
Banksy, Rage the Flower Thrower, 2005
Banksy is a very private individual, he shrouds himself with secrecy and as a consequence very little is known about his true identity and this in turn adds to the attraction of his works.
His works appear in great secrecy and unannounced, often stenciled work which appears spray painted on walls all over the world.
From Banksy’s own secretive autobiographies it’s clear that he started graffiti painting when he was about 13 years old and decided to use stenciling because, he claims, he was slow at painting free hand, and clearly didn’t want to be caught by the authorities.
He said, “Stenciling is good because you can create a detailed painting in 30 seconds then get out before you’re caught”
It is believed that Banksy was born in 1974 and raised in Bristol, but this has never been verified because of his secrecy.
He has put himself forward for interviews and those he has done have his voice distorted and his face hidden adding to that uncertainty and interest in who he actually is.
Seemingly, he is politically motivated; he stenciled “Rage the Flower Thrower” on the wall in the West Bank of Jerusalem with ladders and drew a young girl with helium balloons as well. Other controversial work can be found in Disney Land where he drew a Guantanamo Bay detainee.
“Rage the Flower Thrower” is about a corrupt and brutal regime of President Ceausescu of Romania. His autocratic government had run the country with an iron fist for many years, ruthlessly eliminating any signs of dissent.
In November, 1989, he had been re-elected for another five years at the Romanian Communist Party Conference.
On the 21st of December, 1989 the President disturbed a small uprising in the city of Timisoara, which was supporting a Protestant priest, and was persuaded to address a public rally in the capital city of Bucharest.
One man in the crowd, who hated Ceausescu and what he stood for, started shouting in favour of the revolutionaries in Timisoara.
The crowd around him believed that when he shouted “long live Timisoara!” it was some form of political slogan and they joined in.
It was only when he shouted “Down with Ceausescu!” that they realised something wasn’t right.
Terrified of the repercussions the crowd began to flee, dropping their banners. In the crush that followed, the wooden batons on which the banners had been held began to snap under the crowd’s feet and women started screaming. The panic sounded like booing.
The unthinkable was about to happen and it was picked up on live television.
Ceausescu stood there on the Presidential balcony, frozen in fear, his mouth open.
Even the official broadcaster’s camera shook with fright. Then the head of Romania’s secret police walked at pace across the balcony to the president and whispered, “They’re getting in”. It was clearly picked up on the open microphone and was broadcasted live.
This was the start of the Romanian revolution and within a week Ceausescu was dead.
To me, this Banksy picture symbolizes the lone rioter throwing flowers into Ceausescu grave and signifies the fight is over. His great appeal continues to be his animosity, with the world becoming fascinated with his work. His work sells for thousands of pounds.
Banksy has no interest in becoming known to the public, and in my view he is a great post modernistic artist with strong views and that he seeks to share his views with the general public. I believe you cannot get more Post-modern than a Banksy.
I feel his work is highly politically motivated and is rebellious towards society, through his art he has his voice if you like and he speaks out against the establishments that we call governments.
Globally the rise of women’s liberation protest movements was witnessed in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The marches witnessed in London, Europe and America were considered ground breaking at the time and indeed the disruption of the 1970 Miss World competition did happen.
Groups worried about ecological problems and aimed to protect the world – Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, as well as the promotion of peace – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and as I discuss later this shaped and impacted my chosen artist – David Hockney.
There were protests by Native American groups who were being forced to live on central reservations. We see gay liberation protests, and this was very personal to David Hockney, as he was openly gay.
It was a fact there was growing mistrust of art institutions, as more male artists are exhibited in galleries than female artists. People became politicalised – this we can see seemed to be the key intention of the artists of the time.
The implications of postmodernism on the world of art I feel is that art dealt with real issues of identity – people wanted their own identity to be recognised and acknowledged.
Art became one of the many protests against the elitism and the artists of the era clearly felt that art should not just be there for the sake of it and I back up this argument by drawing attention to Atelier Populaire, 1968.
In summary Atelier Populaire was an artist manifesto, the main points of the text were:
- They were attacking the middle class, as well as the whole middle class culture and how they affect the artists
- Robert Smithson (Spiral Jetty artist), backed this up by saying the gallery is a prison. By giving artists a privileged status it separates them from ordinary people
- The group also attacked the idea that art is useful and precious – they believed that art should reflect values of ordinary people.
- George Cross – a German artist after the First World War, he portrayed German soldiers with no legs. The Nazi’s declared his art degenerated
- Power is taken away from the artist by making them part of the middle class
- In line’s 11 and 12 they stated that were in favour of radical change
- They believed in re-evaluation of the role of the artist – “a transformation of what art is”.
Their output it can be argued is that they were very rough and ready. They were not interested in aesthetics. Their posters were not made to be exhibited in galleries; they were more educated than anything else. They published street newspapers daily, all anonymously; they were made collaboratively, avoiding photography. They seemingly wanted to make posters which were more personal than that. They clearly also helped to organise “happenings” for examples exhibitions, advertisement of new technology and brands.
The actions of the AP had an impact in the UK, as the Hornby College students produced posters encouraging art students to embrace liberalism in the education they were receiving. They encouraged questioning of basic values and in similarity with the AP, they believed in class solidarity – this raises alarming similarities to Communist Russia and indeed, the students staged a re-enactment of the storming of the Winter Palace of 1920.
This influence led to community art movements all over the world:
- Production of murals in the UK from 1970’s
(ii) Art was a useful tool in celebrating the local community
(iii) Murals could bring to light the struggles that were going on in society
(iv) Political posters acquired ideas from somewhere else and yet it had its own uses
This I would say clearly directed the continued actions of Banksy.
Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool’, David Hockney, 1966
David Hockney was born on the 9th of July, 1937 in Bradford, West Yorkshire, he attended the local School of Art from 1953 to 1957.
After leaving Bradford School of Art, he registered as a conscientious objector and, as an alternative to armed service; he worked in the National Health Service for two years.
David was born into a family of conscientious objectors (family that refused the draft to undertake military service) and the Second World War began 18 months into David’s life.
He will have witnessed the scorn thrown on his parents and the bombing of Bradford and neighbouring Leeds by the German Air Force.
He will have seen men and boys march off to the front, never to return, or to return home maimed.
By adulthood in the late 1950’s and 1960’s David was confronted with a world still in conflict and with the knowledge that he was gay, something of a “taboo” and out-lawed subject in the United Kingdom – for which you could be imprisoned.
The USA had invaded Vietnam, and the Vietnam War was in full swing. Tensions between Britain, USA and Soviet Union, were high and a Third World War was close to happening.
David Hockney enrolled at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1959 for a three year post-graduate course in painting.
David came to prominence in the 1960s, and as discussed earlier, it was to be the first teenage generation free from conscription in Britain (David would be 23 at the start of this decade and had dodged conscription at age 18 on the grounds of conscientious objection and will have faced scorn and hatred).
Young people were finally given a voice and freedom to do what they wanted.
By the early 1960s, teenagers were already significantly different to those of a decade ago. As discussed earlier, young people began to stand up for their beliefs and their individuality. David would have embraced this freedom having had his teenage years in the 1950’s.
David accepted he was gay – which other gay artists either avoided or did not dare include. David moved to the United States in 1964, where he found the freedom to accept he was gay and this seems to have allowed him to escape the gloom and doom of Britain.
When I look at this painting it is politically making a public statement to the art world. It is portraying thoughts and sense of expressions to enjoy life and to be kind, to be aware that nature is part of life, and that nature is all around us and to not be judgemental of differing levels of human sexuality.
His work portrays fantasies and romantic attraction and a sense of control and power through the image of the naked figure. In this landscape painting, the patterns are bold, like a photograph, it is showing that human nature is all around us. (Greig: 2017)
The human figure looks to be at ease and happy in the pool and happy to be observed. He appears to give out the feeling that he has real freedom to do what he wants to do with liberty and that no one is going to harm or criticise him.
The art movement that I would associate this painting with, would be cubism, as to me, it very much portrays the French Impressionist style.
In addition, the way it has been painted I feel there is a mix of different subjects going on in this painting.
I believe this picture clearly portrays his new found freedom, brightness and sunshine and I think the windows show that someone is looking out openly on the world, and Peter being nude, allows everything to be laid bare and be openly accepted.
Word Count: 3,485
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