Painting Pop, Hockney and Nick Rhodes’ Polaroids: Through the Curator’s Eyes

By Charu Vallabhbhai, Curatorial Manager at Lakeland Arts

Pauline Boty, Colour Her Gone, oil on canvas, 1962. Courtesy of Wolverhampton Arts and Museums © the artist’s estate.

This summer at Abbot Hall Art Gallery our exhibitions are Painting Pop, including David Hockney’s works on canvas and a room of his etching and aquatint prints, A Rake’s Progress, celebrating Hockney’s works of the 1960s in the year of his 80th birthday. Charu Vallabhbhai, Lakeland Arts’ Curatorial Manager reminisces on her childhood in Bradford and hearing David Hockney speak when she was an art student there.

The Start of the Spending Spree and the Door Opening for a Blonde from A Rake’s Progress, 1961 – 1963, David Hockney (detail), Etching aquatint, Edition of 50, 18 x 23″, © and courtesy David Hockney

As a young girl growing up in Bradford in the 1970s and 80s with two older sisters that had first say on what channel to set our black and white TV to, I found myself getting lost in painting and drawing. My dad bought me a tray of paints, crayons and felt tip pens, unable to resist my begging for the vibrantly rainbow coloured sets. At this time, my passion for creating in colour began, and later I would discover painters such as Dali and Constable in the books available in the city’s wonderful multi-storey library (now an empty, unused building next to the National Media Museum). I also took my art foundation at Bradford Art College, where David Hockney had been a student in the mid 1950s. I attended evening life drawing classes that one of Hockney’s tutor’s also came to, and I even met Hockney that year when he gave a talk about his photomontages – at what was then known as the National Museum of Film and Photography. Throughout these years in Bradford, before leaving west Yorkshire to take my degree in Fine Art, I would draw and paint and listen to the radio. Pop music was my obsession and the soundtrack to many of my memories of growing up. As I approached my teenage years I would borrow or buy ‘Smash Hits’ magazine. From 1993-97 I loved Neil Tennant and subsequent editors’ sense of humour, and still chuckle now at some of the nick-names given to the pop stars of the day.

I have a vivid memory of Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran’s polaroid photography, and also David Sylvian’s at the time. I had always assumed that this was out of a combination of their awareness of how both Warhol and Hockney had used polaroid, and developed it from an instant-photo to an art object. It’s great now in the year of David Hockney’s 80th birthday to hear what Nick Rhodes has to say about the importance of Hockney’s polaroid photography:

‘I think the Hockney Polaroids are significant works, he has always been interested in different mediums as an artist and this venture turned out to be particularly inspired. A lot of different artists were working with Polaroids during the late Seventies and early Eighties notably Warhol who created many of his portraits from Polaroids. I like the Lucas Samaras works too. They are all used distinct methods, the Hockney montage technique was a really focused and effective idea, which has since been imitated by many others.’

Nick Rhodes is a founding member of Duran Duran, performing on keyboards. He is also a photographer and has keen interest in 20th century art, visiting exhibitions around the world during his travels.

Author: Lakeland Arts

Lakeland Arts is a leading arts charity based in Cumbria, in the North West UK and manages Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, both in Kendal, Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House in Bowness-on-Windermere and Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories on the shores of Windermere.

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