Printmaking in the Digital Age

David Hockney's Home Made Prints

“In February of 1986, David Hockney began experimenting with a friend’s color photo copy machine, a new type of technology that had only recently been released. It didn’t take long for him to realize the opportunity the machine presented for a new printmaking method, one which provided a means of ‘photographing’ an image as well as a way to reproduce it.  

He began creating works in a process similar to traditional lithographic techniques. A single sheet was fed through the copier multiple times, each time a new ‘plate’ would be printed onto it, with the process repeated to create a complete edition of prints. Scale manipulation was also experimented with both within the images as well as in order to create a new, larger work. These were realized by assembling multiple sheets created on a smaller copying machine and subsequently running them through a Kodak machine, capable of accommodating the increased measurements. 

The copier method allowed Hockney a level of autonomy in his printmaking work that had been lacking up to this point. As he explained,

“Over the years I’ve made a lot of prints working with several different master printshops. It’s an exciting process, but… it takes hours and hours, working alongside several master craftsmen, to generate an image. How you’re continually having to interrupt the process of creation from one moment to the next for technical reasons.
But with these copying machines, I can work by myself - indeed you virtually have to work by yourself; there’s nothing for anyone else to do - and I can work with great speed and responsiveness. In fact, this is the closest I’ve ever come in printing to what it’s like to paint: I can put something down, evaluate it, alter it, revise it, all in a matter of seconds.”

Hockney followed up on his copy machine work by learning to fax images, even participating in the 1989 São Paulo Biennial via fax machine, and more recently, creating images via his iPad and iPhone. Ever one to embrace new technology, his works in non-traditional media continue to reimagine the way we view the printmaking process as well as the distribution of images.

David Hockney

David Hockney is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and of the British pop art movement. A painter, printmaker, stage designer, and photographer, his unmistakable style breaks boundaries both in the rules of art and across multiple artistic movements. Born in 1937 in Bradford, England he studied at the Royal College of Art, but did not graduate on account of declining to submit an essay along with his final work. In the 1960s, his bright, figurative paintings of Los Angeles swimming pools accompanied by Californian landscapes as wells as personal subject matter including portraits of friends ignited his career. In 1963, at the age of 26, he had his first one-man show and in 1970 the White Chapel Gallery exhibited his first retrospective.

In the early 1980s, he began working in photocollage, or “joiners” as he called them, exploring movement and photography. In a recent 2016 exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, Hockney debuted a series of works created on the iPhone and iPad exhibiting his love for technology.

Hockney is a highly celebrated artist receiving the First Annual Award of Achievement from the Archives of American Art, Los Angeles in 1993, the Lorenzo de’ Medici Lifetime Career Award of the Florence Biennale, Italy in 2003, and appointment to the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II in 2012 among many others. His work is also held amongst some of the most distinguished collections around the world including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Gallery London, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C., Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. David Hockney lives and works in the Hollywood Hills, California.

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