It is a panoramic view: the road, winding through the high hills that are strongly delineated, eventually leading to the distant city, makes it seem almost a wacky map. It is a landscape: all the ingredients needed to portray a sunny landscape are here, particularly the big blue-blue ocean, the distant azure sky, multicoloured hills and the strip of yellow-yellow beach.
The intense, sun-driven colours are strong! “Malibu” is an experimental print that the artist made in 1993 using computer technology; it is a detail from a former, larger picture that dates from 1990 and shows the road winding further, among higher hills and woodlands.
This larger artwork is called “Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica” and in both versions the geographic area depicted (Santa Monica/Malibu) is highly stylised but perfectly recognisable.
David Hockney first went to California in 1964. He has stayed, off and on, in California’s sunny climes ever since then, wallowing in the caressing climate of Southern California, with its splendid ocean views, abundant sunshine and its vibrant colours.
Malibu, where he owned a beach villa, was an inspiration to him, prompting many pictures with Malibu settings. He admired the ever-beguiling changing faces of Malibu, at sunset, at high-noon, viewed from afar, seen from above, right on the beach, panoramic view or fine details.
Above all, along with the ever-present gleaming sunlight, he appreciated the constant backdrop of the shimmering Pacific Ocean, pacific and calm, which he referred to as the “edge of the western world”.
David Hockney spent his youth in a damp and gloomy industrial city. It is hardly surprising that he moved to California where his art could benefit from the heart-warming colours of sunshine.
David Hockney was born and grew up in Bradford, in West Yorkshire in the north of England, a city of mills and factories known for its above average rain-fall. He was born in 1937 and studied art in Bradford (Bradford College of Art) and in London at the Royal College of Art.
He graduated in 1962 amidst some controversy: he refused to submit an essay, maintaining that he should be judged on his art alone. The RCA, recognising his fine talent, acquiesced and awarded the diploma.
This resolute artistic spirit soon lead him abroad in search of inspiration, colour and vibrancy, somewhat like northern artists such as Van Gogh who found the right shades of yellow and blue only in southern France. Indeed, he identified with Van Gogh in his quest for light and colour, but he ended up in another sun-drenched part of the world: California.