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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Hockney takes art back to basics
By Tom Bishop
BBC News Online entertainment staff

David Hockney
Hockney says drawings help us become critical of other images
Drawing should be regarded as a major art form, artist David Hockney said as he launched the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition in London.

Despite long being seen as "almost irrelevant", drawing is a vital part of every creative process, Hockney said.

"Drawing has been neglected for the last 30 years in art education," he told BBC News Online.

"That was based upon the idea that photography would suffice as a view of the world."

People are now aware that photography can be digitally manipulated
David Hockney
Hockney and fellow artist Allen Jones co-ordinated this year's Summer Exhibition, the largest open contemporary art exhibition in the world.

They put a special focus on drawing, with contributions from artists, celebrities and other professionals who use illustration in their work.

It includes notebook sketches by dancer Michael Clark and musician Brian Eno, team tactics drawn by England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward and Gerald Scarfe's satirical cartoons.

"People are now aware that photography can be digitally manipulated and may no longer reflect reality," Hockney said.

"It is time for us to look at how images are made, to place greater value on drawings and draughtsmanship."

Now photographs can be digitally manipulated, their meanings can be easily changed, Hockney said.

He gave the example of a Los Angeles Times photographer who superimposed two Iraq war images to make them more powerful.

The great photographers of the 20th Century were very competent draughtsmen
David Hockney
"It makes people aware that there is another level to things, that we cannot take photographs at face value. We can be taught to look more carefully at things."

While he finds contemporary use of images "very fascinating", Hockney maintains drawing can be one of the most direct forms of communication.

"Practically everything comes to life on a drawing board - there is a diagrammatic aspect to it."

Hockney, a central figure in the 1960s pop art movement, said the great photographers of the 20th Century were very competent draughtsmen.

I think it has become unglamorous to study drawing as an abstract activity
Allen Jones
Allen Jones added: "We are not making a plea for a return to some kind of Never Neverland of yesterday.

"We are just saying that drawing is a fundamental form of human communication."

Jones, who has contributed six works to the exhibition, described drawing as "a worthwhile discipline" that "sadly does seem to have dropped down the ladder".

Most people now choose to draw on computers rather than with pencil and paper, he admitted.

"But what happens when the juice is turned off and you are left with your own hand and your own eye?

David Hockney
Hockney contributed six Andalucian watercolours to the exhibition
"I think it has become unglamorous to study drawing as an abstract activity simply because it's quite hard, you have got to put the time in.

"But it should be a part of a visual education, in the same way that doing press-ups is part of an athlete's training."

Their comments came after art critic Robert Hughes said there had been "a tragic depreciation" in fundamental art skills such as drawing and painting.

This was partly caused by the false assumption that photography and film told the greatest truth, Hughes said on Wednesday.

The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition features 1,245 works across a range of media including drawing, sculpture and painting in oils and acrylics.

Hockney has contributed six of his own recent watercolours of Andalucian landscapes and gardens.

It was a challenge for him and Jones to "make sense" of such a large exhibition space, Hockney said. "Dazzling white" gallery walls were repainted to beige at his request.

"It made it difficult to actually see the art," he said. "It had previously looked like a jumble sale - I blamed the walls for that."

  • The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition runs from 8 June until 16 August.

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