“Painters have always known there is something wrong with perspective. The problem is the foreground and the vanishing point.” So says pioneering British artist David Hockney, who continues to tease out the issues associated with representing a 3D world on a 2D surface in playful new paintings and photographs on view now at Annely Juda Fine Art in London.
The show includes a number of distinct series—card players, portraits, interior scenes—each of which reflects Hockney’s various experiments with perspective. He began his investigations with understated paintings of a handful of his friends playing cards. In them, three to four men sit on chairs and benches around a trapezoidal table, focused on the game at hand. The shorter end of the table is positioned closer to the viewer, in the foreground of the compositions; its longer end may be seen in the background.
By positioning the table in this way, Hockney cleverly reverses the traditional manner in which artists create the illusion of perspective. Normally, the vanishing point (in this case, the table’s shorter end) appears in the background, fostering a sense of depth and recession. By flipping this arrangement, he pushes everything in his paintings into the foreground—and out into the viewer’s space.
After painting the card players, the artist moved on to experimenting with perspective in photography. “I made the paintings of the card players first. That helped me work out how to photograph them,” Hockney says. “Everything in the photographs is taken very close… Each photograph has a vanishing point, so instead of just one, I get many vanishing points. It is this that I think gives them an almost 3D effect without the glasses. I think this opens up photography into something new.”
To make his photographic works, Hockney took hundreds of individual digital photographs of the various parts of his subjects, and then stitched these images together into a single scene. Like his paintings, these composite photographs are optically engaging and delightfully confounding. The people and objects within them seem to spill over into the world outside the frame, where perspective need not be constructed—or, as in Hockney’s works, deconstructed.