David Hockney made this photo collage titled My Mother, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, in November 1982. The style of this montage was termed Photo Joiners by Hockney.
What is depicted in My Mother, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire?
My Mother depicts the photo-collage-portrait of Hockney’s mother seated on a grave. Wearing a raincoat, with her hands tucked into pockets, the somewhat grim expressions tell us about her state of mind, which is a bit neutral. It is a collage of assembled cutouts of the same image, creating distorted and disjunct imagery.
My Mother, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire – Analysis
My Mother, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire is one of the several works by Hockney from the series of photo collage works. Hockney would use many pieces of photographs to develop a montage that would show a wholesome picture but appear distorted. Moreover, the artwork, in a way, draws our attention to the affectionate bond between him and his mother. The recreated photograph initiates an enquiry into the essential condition of the depicted figure. Notably, arranged with a backdrop of a historic site in a natural setting of monsoon, the artwork evokes an essence drawn from their lives. Hockney’s mother, Laura’s husband, and his father, Kenneth had died, after which her photo was clicked. Slouched, vulnerable and weakened, his mother’s expressions are serene yet deepened by the treatment of collage by the artist. The photo was shot on the grounds of Bolton Abbey in their native Yorkshire.
One of the significant aspects to notice in the picture is Hockney’s feet at the lower centre. It is a method of semiological rendering, wherein the togetherness of mother and son is reflected amidst the natural calmness of the surroundings. Responding to the sudden loss of the family, the rendition is static as opposed to the other series that reverberate with movement. Hockney’s new age method of expression reveals the significance of experimentation of the time that drifted away from the traditional style of expression.
Hockney shared that these works are inspired by Cubism. He stated, “Cubism is difficult to grasp, even for me. I’ve looked at some cubist paintings for 25 years without understanding them. People said cubism led to abstraction but that’s another art-history swindle. Suddenly I see cubism differently, more clearly. And my experiments have led me to a couple of theories of my own…”
David Hockney Photo Joiners
During his career, Hockney developed a new style of working with photos. Photography had become an integral part of his representations. Moving beyond mere photography to recreating imagery, he used a dynamic method called Photo Joiners. The cutouts were cut into the size of a postcard, each showed a different angle of the picture. Symbolically as well as technically, these photo cutouts were an attempt in merging diverse timelines into one work of art. Having an interest in Cubism, Hockney defied the presence of perspective as well as past and present. In addition, they worked on the essence of everyday aesthetics, which provided a sense of wonder towards the daily freshness hidden deep in the repetitive aspect of time and moment. Most importantly, Hockney desired that the viewer of the photo joiners look at his works with a patient mind and observe each cutout with a curious mind. Combining several photos, it is his way to explore the possibilities of photography, which otherwise might be bland and secures nothing but just one glance.
My Mother is one of the works that belonged to a prevalent phase of expression in Hockney’s life. At the same time, Hockney’s representation of the mother has been a recurring aspect of his art practice. A similar photocollage work shows the portrait of his mother, treated in a similar method of representation. It is titled, My Mother, made in 1986. Also, Hockney made a pencil drawing of her mother, titled, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, Mrs Laura Hockney, Bradford, which was altogether a realistic rendering as against the photo joiner method. It was made in 1972.