Kate Ogborn Interviewed by Tamsin Huxford

Tamsin Huxford from the Project Gallery interviews Kate Ogborn the producer of Hockney, 2014, directed by Randall Wright.

Tamsin  Hockney is an engaging interviewee, why is this the first time there has been a large scale documentary about his life?
Kate  The director made a film with Hockney for BBC twelve years ago, exploring theories of Hockney’s. Hockney was thinking about the use of optical lenses by painters in C14th and 15th centuries before chemical photography. He thought with the shift to realist portraits, they must have been using optical lenses as a way of projecting the image that they were then copying. His theories were well founded… Randall and Hockney became friendly during the project and stayed in contact. Randall then took some time thinking about how to approach making a film, since he’s already been so well documented, particularly during the 70’s. Thinking about how to do it was a long job, thinking about his angle and the approach he’d take… Hockney opened up his personal archive for Randall, like home movies, family movies. In a clip he talks about photographing the people he meets, and these photo diaries which he’d kept all his life feature in the film. There’s also films and photographs of experiments for things he’s making, like the storm sequence in Malibu, talking about the devastation of AIDS in his community, is a kind of test and experimentation of ideas. The archive was a key, a different way in, putting the work at the centre of the film, whilst looking at Hockney as a man.

Tamsin  There’s a sense that we are learning to see from Hockney’s perspective. Was this an explicit goal in the making of the film?
Kate  Yeh, this seems to be communicated really strongly to people. People seem to enjoy thinking about how he’s looking, and in some ways it’s so simple - just look - but having the kind of clarity and curiosity he has and that appetite to find beauty in the everyday…

Tamsin  Whilst Hockney’s iconic Hollywood swimming pools have been famously sexy for decades, there’s a sense that the film brings out something more melancholic in Hockney’s preoccupation with closeness and distance between people, particularly after his loss of friends friends to AIDS. Was this shift in focus something that emerged as the film developed?
Kate  Randall was really interested in exploring that… his feeling about Hockney was that he’s both… there’s definitely a loneliness there… with the loss of huge swathes of very close friends who were very important to him. You don’t often see films about friendships. You see films about conflict, relationships… but not often about the importance of friendship and how it can last… I wouldn’t want put words in Hockney’s mouth, but he’s so committed to the work he does, the work comes first, and it’s difficult not to end up quite alone….

Tamsin Hockney says that there’s one continuous thread in his life, and that’s his friends. How did you go about piecing together a continuous narrative through Hockney’s defining friendships, through interviews with Celia Birtwell, Ed Ruscha and others?
Kate ‘Beauty’ is not an easy word to use when talking about art. I think Picasso’s Guernica is beautiful, ….. powerful and moving, and at the time must have been incredibly surprising. Richard Wilson’s 20/50 room full of sump oil is beautiful and again is a surprise. By surprise I mean seeing something you have never seen been before or thinking something you have never previously thought. Every time I make something I want it to take me to a place I have not been. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. The best pieces for me are the ones that have given me the biggest surprise.

Tamsin Your artistic process seems to be based on repetition, which would ordinarily connote constraint, but you seem to use limitation as the basis for creativity and novelty. Could you say a little more about your artistic process?
Kate  The structuring idea wasn’t linear… what Randall was interested in doing was exploring key themes… one theme was friendships, another was location… Yorkshire, LA… and the constant back and fopgstyle8 between Yorkshire and Los Angeles. It wasn’t a chronological approach, Randall was more interested in taking themes, which meant you would juxtapose different elements of his life. It was very much an idea from the beginning, so it was a case of finding episodes, and finding people who could bear witness to these important aspects of Hockney’s life… The people in the film aren’t art historical people, but people from the inside of Hockney’s world. They aren’t people from outside, not people seeing Hockney from a theoretical perspective… it was of course thrill to meet Ed Ruscha… he’s a bit of a dude.

A friend of Hockney’s says at one point that Hockney hadn’t changed one bit. Was there a continuous theme in his life from beginning to end of the film?
Kate We thought ‘still searching’ was the perfect line from one of Hockney’s friends at the end of the film… so open ended… that curiosity… that there’s still something exciting out there to discover. Hockney never closes off the possibility of something new.

Whilst it might almost be necessary to fabulate about Warhol or Dali, there’s a certain sense that for all Hockney’s focus on surface, his emphasis on appearance is a lot more than superficiality, and shouldn’t be used as an excuse to mythologise. Was there an explicit effort to avoid too much anecdote and create a more real or even ordinary picture of Hockney?
Kate There is a sort of deliberate ordinariness… It was fascinating with his family… it seemed such a powerful, cohesive family, and the two parents, it would appear were hugely supportive of a son who is gay and who is an artist… The ‘don’t care what the neighbours say’ is the most fantastic piece of advice to someone pursuing a career in the arts, and to have your father say that… His parents seemed to unquestionably support him, and that grounded him in quite a unique place… he must be quite rare amongst artists to have that ongoing support from his family. It enables him to jump really high from there with complete freedom, because they’ll be there… Tamsin 
freedom, because they’ll be there… Any memorable outtakes?

Kate Good question, but actually no, because the film’s so constructed from archive, so it was really a question of bouncing the interviews off archive, so there wasn’t tons and tons of stuff we left on the cutting room floor. It was a question of thinking about how best to piece together the interviews with archive material… Tamsin 
What’s your favourite Hockney?

Kate That’s difficult… I still love the charcoal drawings, but my favourite in the film was the multi screen snow scene.. I completely fall into it and think it’s completely breath taking… but I actually really love the painting of his mother… with the incredible eyes… and the paper pools, I’d never really seen them until we did the film… I just think Hockney is a really inspiring person, and you don’t meet many of them.



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