Hockney’s painting of Small Santa Monica and the Bay from the Mountains is, like the man himself, an expeditionary force of one, pursuing his own exploration of the visible world around him with unabashed determination.
The brushwork is lithe, the colours voluptuous and joyful, the eye immediately drawn to the meandering trail that snakes through the painting, up through canyons of smooth, vibrant hues of lush, rich pomegranate before navigating the shadow-dappled Santa Monica Mountains painted in hues of mauve and blues and then finally, snaking through more canyons depicted in earthy shades of green that have the texture of semi-ripe avocados before it eventually winds its way down to the bay.
Small Santa Monica and the Bay from the Mountains conveys the tranquility of the calm, azure waters in the rounded shoreline which is juxtaposed by a grid of flat land, feathery wisps of tall grass and specks of orange in the foreground. Hockney has said that when his eye moves, his perspective alters according to the way he looks at an object, so it’s constantly changing.
This shifting perspective is readily evident in his painting as well. The two small vertical shafts that separate the rounded shoreline from the grid of the flatland emerge from the ground like screws that when pivoted, will offer a different perspective to an already diverse landscape where land meets bay and mountain peaks almost touch the skies above.
Romantic and artificial – the perfect hit of pop art – or somber and majestic, the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. Either way, Small Santa Monica and the Bay from the Mountains is Hockney’s ode to the ravishing beauty around him and for the traveler about to embark on the meandering trail, a solitary, yet enjoyable respite lies ahead.