A rephotography project in waiting
March 28, 2009, 12:47 am
Filed under: Artworks, Trees

The Forestry Commission has unknowingly thwarted a David Hockney project. Sometime in the past month or so the commission cut down a small stand of beech trees (at the private owners request) in Yorkshire. Here’s the before and after on that:

What the woodsmen didn’t know was that David Hockney had painted the copse twice, in winter and in summer, and had wanted to complete the whole four season set. As it is, that ain’t going to happen. He gave the whole story to the Guardian, including repro rights on the two pictures involved.

On the radio later I heard someone from the Forestry Commission apparently taking the fairly reasonable position that one couldn’t leave trees standing when people wanted to fell them on the off chance that a major artist was going to paint them. In retrospect it would probably have been a good idea if Hockney had let the owners know about his project. That’s not to blame him — but it’s worth remembering, in England, that most pretty stuff you see in the countryside is someone’s property and responsibility, and often their pride and joy too.

Anyway, the Guardian story quotes Hockney saying he may do some sort of follow up painting anyway.

Though he still mourns the lost trees [on returning yesterday he] was impressed by the patterns of the massive stacked trunks.

“I think now this is my next painting of the wood. It will be very different – but the piles of wood are quite beautiful in their own right, simply because wood can’t help being beautiful.”

I’d be big on that. I’m something of a Hockney fan; there was a time when he was occasionally visiting the gallery downstairs from our flat, and I wish I’d known that he had been. A retrospective in Paris that had some of the Grand Canyon pictures in it was quite an influence on one of the chapters of Mapping Mars. I’m sorry he won’t complete the set — but not too sorry, as he’ll surely use the time for something else. And his unfinished project provides scope for other eyes and hands to undertake a companion project he wouldn’t necessarily be able to see through to maturity. It seems to me that someone, or some collective, should adopt this little copse on the corner as a phenology/rephotography project, or more, and record what regrowth there is, or isn’t, as a tribute to Hockney. If I had visual skills and lived nearby I might even do it myself. Anyway, if anyone’s interested I’m pretty sure this is the spot in question in Google Maps.

Update: More on the story in the Mail.

All images except the Google one from David Hockney, used with great respect but no permission

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