The Mind’s Eye

Long preoccupied with technology, David Hockney is exploring a new artistic medium that uses high-definition cameras, screens, software, and moving images to capture the experience of seeing.

Martin Gayford

One of your basic contentions, I say to the British artist David Hockney, is that there is always more to be seen, everywhere, all the time. "Yes," he replies emphatically. "There’s a lot more to be seen." We are sitting in his spacious house in the quiet Yorkshire seaside town of Bridlington. In front of us is a novel medium, a fresh variety of moving image—a completely new way of looking at the world—that Hockney has been working on for the last couple of years.

We are watching 18 screens showing high-definition images captured by nine cameras. Each camera was set at a different angle, and many were set at different exposures. In some cases, the images were filmed a few seconds apart, so the viewer is looking, simultaneously, at two different points in time. The result is a moving collage, a sight that has never quite been seen before. But what the cameras are pointing at is so ordinary that most of us would drive past it with scarcely a glance.

At the moment, the 18 screens are showing a slow progression along a country road. We are looking at grasses, wildflowers, and plants at very close quarters and from slightly varying points of view. The nine screens on the right show, at a time delay, the images just seen on the left. The effect is a little like a medieval tapestry, or Jan van Eyck’s 15th-century painting of Paradise, but also somehow new. "A lot of people who were standing in the middle of the Garden of Eden wouldn’t know they were there," Hockney says.

The multiple moving images have some properties entirely different from those of a projected film. A single screen directs your attention; you look where the camera was pointed. With multiple screens, you choose where to look. And the closer you move to each high-definition image, the more you see.

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A still from the 18-screen video May 12th 2011 Rudston to Kilham Road 5 PM. Credit: ©David Hockney

Untitled, 30 November 2010, No. 1, created on an iPad. Credit: ©David Hockney

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