I should perhaps myself note, however, the way that curiously, while the two artists have been engaged in entirely different artistic enterprises—undergirded, they would argue, by entirely opposite readings of history—many of Hockney’s and Irwin’s core concerns have come to seem, to me at any rate, almost entirely identical: the emphasis, for instance, on the critique of photography, the countervailing celebration of the human quality of looking and experience, the focus on the centrality of the observer, the vitality of the periphery, the interpenetrations of art and science, the dialogue of immanence.
Hockney recently embarked on an extended series of lush landscape paintings documenting the changing seasons in the beloved eastern Yorkshire of his youth. And, granted, what could possibly seem more retrograde from Irwin’s point of view? (“You get me all wrong,” Irwin once said to me with regard to Hockney, before concluding, witheringly, “I’ve always thought him a first-rate practitioner.”) But what in turn is one to make of Hockney’s recent characterization to me of those deliriously colorful nature studies, devoid of any human presence, as figure paintings? Figure, I asked him, taking the bait, what figure? There’s no figure in these paintings. “You,” Hockney replied triumphantly, “you, the viewer, are the figure.” And one can’t imagine Irwin’s having parsed things any plainer.
more from The Believer here.