New Book! Shaping the World
Co-authored with the leading sculptor Antony Gormley, informed and energised by a lifetime of making, this book explores the central role of sculpture in the development of human culture from prehistory to the present day.
Antony Gormley and I first began talking about sculpture at the end of the earth. Literally so, it was at Santiago de Compostela, near Cape Finisterre, where he had an exhibition in 2002. It was a suitable place for our conversations to start: a granite-built city with a superbly carved Romanesque cathedral. We’ve reconvened at intervals over eighteen years, and intensively for the last two, and those conversations form the basis for this book.
Sculpture is the universal art. It has been practised by every culture throughout the world and stretches back into the distant past. The first surviving shaped stones may even predate the advent of language. The drive to form stone, clay, wood and metal into shapes evidently runs deep in our psyche and biology. This links the question ‘What is sculpture?’ to the question ‘What is humanity?’
In this wide-ranging book, we consider how sculpture has been central to the evolution of our potential for thinking and feeling. Sculpture cannot be seen in isolation as an aesthetic pursuit; it is related to humankind’s compelling urge to make its mark on the landscape, to build, make pictures, practise religion and develop philosophical thought. Above all, we discuss their view of sculpture as a form of physical thinking capable of altering the way people feel and of inviting them to look at sculpture they encounter and more broadly the world around them in a completely different way.
Antony Gormley: ‘The origins of making physical objects goes back before the advent of Homo sapiens, earlier even than the appearance of our Neanderthal cousins. Sculpture emerges from material culture. At the beginning there was an urge to make objects and you could argue that making them was the catalyst for the emergence of the modern mind.’
The Pursuit of Art
In the course of a career thinking and writing about art, I have travelled all over the world both to see works of art and to meet artists. My journeys, often to fairly inaccessible places, involve frustrations and complications as well as serendipitous encounters, conversations and outcomes.
In The Pursuit of Art, I recount journeys to see (amongst others) Brancusi’s Endless Column in Romania, prehistoric cave art in France, the museum island of Naoshima in Japan, the Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and Anselm Kiefer’s extraordinary ‘underworld’ at Barjac, France. Interwoven with these tales are other journeys, to meet artists – Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris, Marina Abramović ́in Venice and Robert Rauschenberg in New York, for example – or to travel with them, such as being with Gilbert & George in Beijing, seeing Roni Horn and her work in
Iceland. These encounters not only provide insights into the way artists approach and think about their art, but also reveal the importance of their personal environments. And in the process, I discuss how these meetings impact on his own evolving ideas and tastes.
Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney & the London Painters
In Modernists and Mavericks, I examine the way in which the postwar painters of London thrived against the postwar backdrop of Soho bohemia in the 1940s and 1950s and ‘Swinging London’ in the 1960s, and explored the possibilities of paint.
The development of painting in London from the Second World War to the 1970s is the story of interlinking friendships, shared experiences, rivalries, and artistic concerns among a number of acclaimed artists, including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Victor Pasmore, Bridget Riley, Gillian Ayres, Patrick Heron, Richard Hamilton, Prunella Clough, Frank Bowling and Howard Hodgkin. Drawing on extensive first-hand interviews over 30 years with important witnesses and participants, many previously unpublished, I tease out the thread connecting these individual lives.
A History of Pictures: from Cave to Computer Screen
Watch a film of Martin Gayford discussing the book with David Hockney here.
Rendez-vous with Art
Co-authored with Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for 31 years to 2008, this book discusses how we experience art, how we look at it, and how we think about it. It is structured around the conversation the authors had while visiting some of the best-known museums in the world, including the Louvre, the Prado and the Palazzo Pitti. The result is highly unusual and very personal: a book about the experience of visiting a museum or art gallery.
Michelangelo: His Epic Life
At 31 Michelangelo Buonarroti was considered the finest artist in Italy, perhaps the world; long before he died at almost 90 he was widely believed to be the greatest sculptor or painter who had ever lived (and, by his enemies, to be an arrogant, uncouth, swindling miser). For decade after decade, he worked near the dynamic centre of events: the vortex at which European history was changing from Renaissance to Counter Reformation. In Michelangelo I describe what it felt like to be Michelangelo, and how he transformed forever our notion of what an artist could be.
A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney
David Hockney is described as the world’s most popular living painter. Here, in a record of nearly a decade of conversations, he emerges as something else: an incisive and original thinker on art. From California to Yorkshire and through anecodote, discussion and reflection, both artist and critic reveal how, in Hockney’s words, drawing makes one ‘see clearer, and clearer, and clearer still’.
Man with a Blue Scarf
Lucian Freud, perhaps the worlds leading portrait painter, spent seven months painting my portrait. In this book I describes the process chronologically, from the day I arrived for the first sitting through to my eventual meeting with the couple who bought the finished painting.
The Yellow House
Two artistic giants. One small house. From October to December 1888 a pair of largely unknown artists lived under one roof in the French provincial town of Arles. Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh ate, drank, talked, argued, slept and painted in one of the most intense and astonishing creative outpourings in history.
Constable in Love
Love not landscape was the making of Constable . . . John Constable and Maria Bicknell might have been in love but their marriage was a most unlikely prospect. Constable was a penniless painter who would not sacrifice his art for anything, while Maria’s family frowned on such a penurious union.