David Hockney on art as a medium of communication

As part of our Creative Matters Spotlight series we’re rerunning a collection of articles that first appeared in Student Magazine. Next up, we hear from renowned British artist David Hockney.

Student Magazine, launched in 1968, was Richard Branson’s first business venture upon leaving school and adopted a creative approach to tackling tough issues. Student was an alternative to the stale publications of the day, covering everything from mental and sexual health to the Vietnam and Biafra wars. In the first edition of the magazine Richard and the Student team commissioned a series of articles by top British artists, in order to gain a greater understanding of the impact of their work on wider society. Here David Hockney explains his thoughts on art as a way of connecting with others.

David Hockney: 'I feel I'd dry up if I had to stay in England'

I never thought that art, as a profession, would be difficult. It was secure being at college, and still having another few years there. It only occurs to you when you are above to leave: and by that time I had already got a dealer and was selling pictures.

Art cannot be anything but a medium of communication, but I don’t know whether it is a very good one or not. There are probably better ones. I don’t know why I paint and draw. If it is anything, I suppose it is a celebration. I like Francis Bacon’s statement: “Art is a game whereby man can distract himself”. It is a recreation, and it’s also a way or earning a living. I work methodically, it depends upon circumstances. I always find I work well in California. A painting for me is usually a continuous thing, I sometimes break off, but this would not be because I didn’t like it: something would come up, and I would decide to go somewhere. I’ve permanently itchy feet, and am always wanting to go all over the place. I feel I’d dry up if I had to stay in England. But I don’t stop or philosophize too much about my vocation. If I did, I might not do any work at all. I paint for myself, and I wouldn’t change if people didn’t like my work. as it is, I don’t get myself involved in the art world too much anywhere. This is one reason why I like Los Angeles. The art world there is tiny. It’s a very sexy city. It wouldn’t matter to me if there was no art there at all. I don’t necessarily have to be surrounded by art - some people do, I know. But, on the other hand, I don’t like being alone. I’m terribly gregarious really.

Read more from Student: Henry Moore on why humans need art

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