David Hockney, Terence Conran, and me…

IT’s confusing but is it a crime for a socialist to be interested in retail? Whatever, I am both! It’s probably genetic, not to say even a bit Marxist! Each time a department store or other shop opens, I like to be there.

Terence Conran visited each of his ‘Habitats’ launched throughout Britain in the 80s. So it was in the Chester branch, he exclaimed, “you snob,” when I told him, how now anyone could buy a print, David Hockney would no longer be my favourite artist.

But on Friday/Saturday I’m off to indulge in more of this old Yorkshireman’s brilliance at the Barbara Hepworth award winning gallery in Wakefield.


In 1958 Alan Davie, Scots painter and musician had his first solo exhibition at Wakefield Art Gallery, which went on to tour nationally and launched Davie’s career. A young attendee at the Wakefield exhibition was David Hockney, then a student at Bradford College of Art!

The exhibition was a pivotal influence on Hockney’s artistic development and shortly after this visit, Hockney moved to London to take up a place at the Royal College of Art. Here he discarded, as Davie had, realist figurative painting in favour of colourful, gestural works that combined abstraction with coded text and symbolism.


The exhibition will bring together around 45 paintings and works on paper by Alan Davie and David Hockney, many of which have not been seen publicly for decades. It will trace the parallel paths of these key figures of post-war British painting, revealing creative convergences and shared themes of passion, poetry and love as their works of art evolved from figuration to abstraction.

Thanks to Conran, everyone knows Hockney. Now I’m about discover Davie who sounds like renaissance man!  Musically, Davie played piano, cello, and bass clarinet. In the early 1970s his interest in free improvisation led to a close association with the percussionist Tony Oxley. His paintings have also inspired music by others, notably the bassist and composer Barry Guy.

Set within the context of 1960s counterculture and the popularisation of art through diverse new forms of media, the exhibition represents an exciting moment in British art and the emergence of a radical new art world. Told you so. It’s why Hockney was my favourite until no longer radical, through the 80’s retail fiascos, I dropped him and went back to Picasso!