Echoes of Hockney in the water

As part of an art project during my studies, I looked at the work of David Hockney and particularly his representations of water. If you don’t know him, he’s famous for painting swimming pools – perhaps his most famous painting is A Bigger Splash – and he has depicted water in a surprisingly large number of fairly abstract but convincing ways. The representation that interested me most in the context of the project was that in Portrait of Nick Wilder (open the link if you don’t know it – I couldn’t get permission to reproduce it here!). I was intrigued at how such solid blocks of colour in such strange shapes could create a convincing impression of the surface of water.

Fast forward a little over 15 years, and I’m leaning on the railings of a ferry, dozing a little as we sail between Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. I look down at the water and see the exact same shapes of colour on the surface that Hockney had used to represent water in Portrait of Nick Wilder. Of course, I have to photograph it.

Obviously the surface of the water was in constant flux and the boat was moving fast enough that a shutter speed I thought would be no problem was too slow, so I got many blurred attempts. Even with a faster shutter speed, I was relying entirely on luck with the composition. I got two I liked.

In both of them, the frame is divided into a generally dark area and a generally light area. I prefer the overall look that this creates in the top one, but I prefer the patterns in the bottom one. Which do you prefer?

In both of them, I love that there are so many shades of blue and the colours are so strong, and I love the fact that it’s such an abstract composition in essence, but it’s also obvious what it is. The filled frame gives the feeling that the water goes on forever, which out in the middle of the ocean, it felt like it did.

Processing this photo also coincided with my happening across images from Edward Burtynsky’s Anthropocene project, which sowed the seed of an idea for a project on patterns of different scales. These images fit the brief, so one could well end up being the first.