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Francigena Val di Susa Marathon

Francigena Val di Susa Marathon

On the 17th June this year, I walked in the second of four Via Francigena Marathons in Italy. The Francigena Val di Susa Marathon began in Avigliana near Turin, and continued for 42 km to an ancient Roman amphitheatre in Susa. There was an air […]

The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries

The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries

Last year I visited the Musèe de Cluny in Paris to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Little did I realise I would see them again so soon in Sydney at the AGNSW.  However, their meaning is somewhat obscure. So, here are some ideas […]

David Hockney at the Centre Pompidou

David Hockney at the Centre Pompidou

‘Art should be about joy!’

David Hockney has been true to his words! And, to celebrate his 80th birthday, a lifetime span of his works is exhibited (June 21 to Oct 23 2017) at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. 

This huge collection of his works gives amazing insight into the development of his work. As well as the major influences leading to the following turning points in his work.

1937 – 1959

During this time Hockney trained at Bradford School of Art.  His paintings were typical of Realism representing the daily life of the working class. Builders, painted in 1954 is a good example.


At the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, Hockney was influenced by American Abstract Expressionism.  This led to a series of clever and humorous works dealing with homosexuality. Cleaning Teeth, Early Evening, 1962 is an amusing example.


In this period Hockney experimented with heaps of different painting styles from Pop Art to Renaissance to Egyptian.  I particularly like his Flight into Italy – Swiss Landscapes, 1962 with the Alps standing tall and solid contrasting with the speeding Futuristic style flying vehicle. 


Hockney moved to California and embraced its hedonistic lifestyle.  He became famous for his swimming pool series, especially Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972.  Photography also became a constant source of inspiration and experimentation for Hockney.


This time period was marked by Hockney’s large ‘Double Portraits’, paintings of his friends.  The interactions between these couples is very awkward and they become like psychological studies. Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-1971 from the Tate Gallery is one of the most famous.  Many features in the painting point towards the couple’s independence, especially the way they are looking towards the spectator and not at each other.  

Celia Clark became one of Hockney’s favourite subjects to draw.  Drawing his friends has been a life long practice for Hockney.


During this time, Hockney invented clever ways to confront Greenberg’s Formalism.  In Savings and Loan Building, 1967, there is a perfectly formalist, geometric Minimalist building, but three palm trees are defiantly painted in the foreground.   My favourite painting from this time is Rubber Ring floating in a Swimming Pool, 1971.  The red ring floating near the edge of the pool, painted from a photograph, looks very abstract.  But, the clever twist of the title confronts the abstraction.


At this time Hockney designed sets and costumes for the opera.  This led him to question classical perspective and to experiment with spatial constructions. Especially interesting is his research into Hogarth’s use of perspective, while he was making sets for The Rake’s Progress.


Next Hockney began his experimentation with colouring and making paper pulp squares which became gridded swimming pool scenes.  He achieved a remarkably shimmering water surface, like in A Large Diver, 1978.


Influenced by Picasso, Matisse, Dufy, Marquet, Mondrian and Kandinsky, Hockney next experimented with loose, colourful images that explored new perspectives. Nichols Canyon, 1980 has a strong Fauvist influence.


During this time Hockney took the idea of the ‘grid’ to extremes with his multifocal Polaroid images. He sometimes used over a hundred photographs to create a portrait like Kasmin, Los Angeles, 28th March, 1982 or Pearblossom Hwy, 11-18th April, 1986.


Some Very New Paintings came next.  Here, Hockney seems to bring together all of his past experiments. The paintings are filled with luminous colour, and complex abstract compositions which are abstract, but allow the viewer space to move around in these ‘inner landscapes’, like in The Twenty-Sixth V.N. Painting, 1992.


Hockney began to spend more time in his native Yorkshire in 1997 to be close to his friend Jonathan Silver. Driving through Yorkshire to see his friend, he began to see the beauty in the Yorkshire landscape. And so began the remarkable landscapes that he is still creating today.


Hockney took his Yorkshire landscapes a step further by creating large gridded images.  He paints these en plein air with each individual canvas a size that is easy to transport and put on an easel.


In 2008 Hockney began to work on a computer again. Then, in 2009 he made his first iPhone drawings. And when iPads became available in 2010, he fully embraced the drawing medium. There was a extensive range of these drawing on display at NGV in early 2017. His experimental photography of the changing seasons in Woldgate were also on display.

This exhibition ended with some of his brilliantly coloured oil paintings of his garden in Santa Monica painted in 2016!

The exhibition is currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Grand-St-Bernard Pass

Grand-St-Bernard Pass

Grand-St-Bernard Pass is a gateway between Switzerland and Italy that has been used by travellers for thousands of years. But at an altitude of 2473 m (8114 ft) the weather can be very unpredictable, as I discovered last Saturday!  I travelled up to the Pass […]



Lausanne in situated on the shores of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). When I visited I headed straight for Lausanne Cathedral.  It is a very steep walk from the Lake up to the Cathedral.  But, well worth it as a tour of the city, and for the amazing views to the Lake and Alps.  

The Cathedral is considered to be the most beautiful Gothic Church in Switzerland and the spiritual heart of French-speaking Switzerland.  Its construction began in 1170 and it was consecrated in 1275.  It is famous for its examples of polychromy which is the coloured paint still visible on its statues in the Chapel of the Virgin and the Painted Portal.  The Painted Portal is enclosed with glass and I sat peacefully for some time absorbed in the beauty of the statues.

Medieval pilgrims flocked  to the Cathedral to pray before the Golden Virgin hoping for miracles.  Sadly, in the Reformation, the Golden Virgin was melted down to make coins!  But, the glorious south rose window has survived.

In the evening, I walked along the shores of the Lake towards Vevey admiring the sculptures, the Lake and the Alps. After a while, I found a great spot to sit and sketch the Alps and watch the sunset.  I imagined I was Turner sitting there! And was surprised to see the golden yellow colours, so typical of Turner’s sublime paintings, appearing in the evening sky.

I did indulge in the luxury of eating a very tasty veal knuckle and risotto in a Swiss/Italian Michelin star restaurant near my hotel.  But the best part was sampling the local Lavaux wine.  I could see their vineyards in the distance as I sat sketching.  Lausanne is well known for its amazing food and has many events throughout the year celebrating its cuisine!

Go to to find out more about how to enjoy a visit to Lausanne.

Romainmôtier Abbey

Romainmôtier Abbey

Romainmôtier Abbey is the oldest Romanesque Abbey still being used as a Reform Church in Switzerland. I first became aware of it because it is one of the cultural highlights when travelling the Swiss Via Francigena pilgrim route.  When I was staying in Lausanne, on […]

Crossing the English Channel at Dover

Crossing the English Channel at Dover

The Via Francigena begins at Canterbury and then continues to Dover in order to cross the English Channel to Calais in France.  It is a 20 mile walk which takes 7 to 8 hours and passes through the rolling hills and farmlands of Kent.  Local […]

The Via Francigena begins at Canterbury Cathedral

The Via Francigena begins at Canterbury Cathedral




Via Francigena
Milestone at start of pilgrimage to Rome

The Via Francigena is an ancient medieval pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome. The itinerary is based on the journey made by Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 990 AD. He had travelled to Rome to receive his Pallium from the Pope. And, on his return he made diary entries recording the 79 stages of his journey.Today, many pilgrims follow in his footsteps walking from Canterbury, through France, Switzerland and Italy to Rome.  The beginning of this journey is marked by this milestone.

For hundreds of years, Canterbury Cathedral has been a site for pilgrimages. Mostly, because pilgrims came to the tomb of Saint Thomas Beckett, who was murdered in the Cathedral. His blood was said to have worked miracles. Today, the exact location of his tomb is unknown.