The Salt of the Earth

 I will apologise in advance for the length of this post; there's a lot of pictures and I can never just sum up things in a word or two. When Man invented so many excellent words and ways of saying things, why should we reduce it to a few terse interjections?

 And besides which, I have thank you s to say to my Yorkshire friends, without whose posts today might not have happened. I can't even remember who visited; I know Diane of Heart-Shaped did, but I'm sure somebody else did as well. Apologies. If it was you, comment below!

 The children (young adults) are with my Mum today as we have a weekend just a deux for a change. We like heritage and industrial history so when Mr AJ asked for suggestions, I said "Saltaire.". He hadn't heard of it before, so he looked it up, agreed it sounded good, and took me there.

The picture above is of the United Reform Church. Saltaire is a model village built by mill owner Titus Salt. He and his family are buried in the church, which is still an active part of the lived-in village. We got talking to an old lady who had bought one of the 5 bed houses 50 years ago for £950 and still worships there, so she volunteers to man the place so it can stay open to visitors.

 Meeting and talking to people happened everywhere in Saltaire. There was always a person happy to say hello and to talk, from the lady in the Information to the sweetest old retired teacher who approached me on the third floor.... more of her later.

And art. Good modern art, not really abstract art that needs a degree to understand. Visceral art, that makes you appreciate it, clever art. The installation above is a cotton reel for every woman who worked in the mill and recorded in the 1891 census. The artist, Caren Garfen, had embroidered the name, age and occupation of every working woman on very fine gauge linen. Some of them were as young as 11, and of all of them only 3 were married.  The artist had also embroidered a reel for each married woman, listing the number of children, but these were separate from the wall art installation.

Saltaire had a lovely park, where we sat and watched the game. Summer afternoons are built for relaxing, after all. 

But the biggest revelation of Saltaire was the free to enter gallery with Hockney paintings. The collection is called The Arrival of Spring and is a series of paintings created between 1st and 31st May 2011.

They are not made using paint, nor brushes, pens or ink. Oh, no. These paintings are truly impressively created using the ipad.

Yes. The I PAD. And a stylus and a programme. David Hockney sat in his car and drew and painted using modern technology.

And I really like them. They're not like paintings or pastels, where sometimes you go close to see the techniques or brush strokes, or drawings where you are looking at the interaction of graphite and the texture of the paper, but something quite different.

Distance lends enchantment, the old saying goes, and these paintings need you to stand back and look. Until you know, until you go close and see the spray paint effect or recognise the limited palette it would be very hard to decide exactly what medium had been used.

Indeed, there were some postcards of Hockney watercolours on paper in the shop that had a bit of a look of the ipad work, a fore runner of these.

 Look at the colours, the vibrancy, the effects. I'm a sucker for snow, and the painting above has such a contrast between the monochrome snow and the trees here shining brown and gold.

I couldn't get a good shot of these two pictures straight on, just because of the windows shining onto the glass, but I loved the contrast in tone between them. I love the softened, misty, pastel quality of the picture on the left compared to the sharp, graphic clarity of the field scene. To think they were both created on something not much larger than an A4 sketchbook and then printed out is amazing.

It was as I was looking at these that a little old lady approached me. She lived in Huddersfield, she said, but had a caravan near Bridlington, where Hockney lives and paints. She wanted to tell us that she had gone on a search to find the lane where these were done, and had found the ruin of wall.
She had also gone to the artist's house to deliver a letter and met the man himself, "Not driving himself, of course, but I told him, I said 'You need to display some of your paintings up here, where you come from.' " She was lovely to talk to, she had studied art way back in her past and then gone into primary school teaching. Now, she said, she didn't paint any more. "Bad hands," she whispered, "and then every wall in my house is full and all my friends have paintings. I tried to sell a few, but they are so hard to sell..."

I suppose die-hard purists would argue that these are not paintings, strictly speaking, or that the limited palette lacks the versatility of pen or paints, but I don't agree.

I've only used simple note apps or easy paint programmes on pc, but I appreciate the ability and skill that goes in to the work. Yes, he hasn't used pencils or paint and, yes, the eraser facility means any mistakes could be taken away, but if you've ever used a drawing app on your phone you know how controlled and skilful you need to be.

That a man in his seventies should so willingly and beautifully embrace modern technology is a lesson to us all. That he still pushes the envelope without needing to shock, offend or use tricks is really impressive. I love the picture above, with the wild garlic and the trees beginning to fill out. It makes me want an ipad (or android tablet) and to have a go myself.

I don't know how long the exhibition is there for, so you may need to ring and check before you go. And if you would like to read more about David Hockney, I enjoyed the information on this web page, part of a San Francisco gallery's programme for an exhibition last year.


  1. It sounds like you really enjoyed your day. This isn't the type of art I'd have in my own home but I can see its appeal. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  2. I love Saltaire and although it is so close to home hardly ever make the effort to go there.

  3. I've never been to Saltaire but it looks a fascinating place. It sounds very like Port Sunlight which also has a gallery, although it's nice to go a bit further afield sometimes. Glad you had a great day! xx

  4. I've never visited but it looks a great day out. Glad you had a lovely day out there x

  5. Excellent choice of venue for a day out. This is on my to visit list. I think Ill need a good few months in the North to see all i want to see.
    Your admiration of these pictures is clear to see. I loved seeing them stretch across the wall in a row, you really get the feel for them like that.
    Lisa x

  6. We saw these pictures a couple of years ago at the RA exhibition, they are amazing aren't they, I really do love them!!! Great to see them again here! Glad that you had a great time! xx

  7. Looks like a great place to visit. Very interesting. My dad has an iPad - he's 87! But he's not an artist.

  8. What an interesting place to visit. Jx


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