David Hockney has experimented with a host of media over his artistic career, with his body of work ranging from massive paintings to prints, photo collages to computer software-created art.
In recent years, the adventurous 74-year-old British artist has added new tools to his creative arsenal: namely an iPhone and iPad, which have become his digital sketch pads.
"David's had a long history of playing with different mediums," explained Charlie Scheips, a longtime Hockney associate and curator of the new exhibit Fresh Flowers, which opens at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum on Saturday.
"What's different about this is that David always was a master draughtsman and used drawing to inform his paintings...This has become his sketch book now," Scheips told CBC News.
"It's actually feeding into the work he's doing, the landscape work he's doing in oil, more traditional media and vice versa. He's innovated through his iPad drawings."
Soon after picking up an iPhone in 2008, Hockney discovered apps that allow users to create artwork with finger strokes and swoops serving as brushstrokes across the touchscreen interface. He was soon emailing his friends impressionistic, quickly created drawings — often of flowers — quipping "My flowers last!"
The British pop art pioneer staged an early exhibit of his iPhone works in London in May 2009 and, that same year, French businessman and art patron Pierre Bergé agreed to mount an exhibit of Hockney's new digital creations — floral art, still life works and portraits — at Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent in Paris.
According to Scheips, Hockney was among the first to acquire an iPad upon its release in 2010 and the larger canvas — coupled with the eventual addition of a stylus — has boosted the complexity, diversity and richness of the artist's novel and spontaneous digital oeuvre.
"He basically carries the stylus in his breast pocket and his iPad in his sketch pad pocket. He doesn't go anywhere without it actually," Scheips said.
"If he sees the sunrise coming through his bedroom window in Yorkshire, he doesn't have to get out of bed. He can draw it. It's amazingly spontaneous. He doesn't have to mix paint, get water, a brush, a pen — and he might not have done the drawings and the sun might have changed by the time he got himself all organized to do such a thing."
After Paris, Fresh Flowers/Fleurs fraîches travelled to Copenhagen's Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. For its run at the ROM, architect Ali Tayar engineered a brand new presentation that is the largest display of Fresh Flowers yet, with the Toronto stop featuring about 100 iPhone drawings, approximately 100 iPad drawings, as well as films and large-scale projected animations of Hockney creating the artworks.
It is the exhibit's North American debut as well as the artist's first major show in Canada in about 20 years.
Over the next few weeks, the plan is for Hockney to email new artworks he creates into the archive of drawings on show at the ROM. He will also take part in a question-and-answer session on Oct. 19 — one of several related events organizers have scheduled to accompany Fresh Flowers.
"As we take it on the road it's an evolving show. We added more projections [in Toronto]
for instance than we did in Copenhagen and we might even start doing films in future shows. It's a work-in-progress. That's what makes it fun," Scheips said.