The roots of Havoc Dyed Ink began with a fortuitous meeting in 2001 when Adam Birtwistle visited David Hockney in his studio. The following year Birtwistle painted two portraits of Hockney using studies made during this meeting. One was purchased by Glyndebourne Opera House as a testament to Hockney’s longstanding collaboration on their set design; it hangs at Glyndebourne alongside Birtwistle’s portraits of other personalities significant to the venue - Sir Peter Hall, Sir George and Lady Christie, Peter Sellars and Anja Selja. The other portrait was purchased by The Berger Collection (Denver Art Museum) and is touring the United States as part of Treasures of British Art 1400-2000.
Havoc Dyed Ink unites Birtwistle's studies from 2002 and 2014 with a new painting of Hockney from 2015. Throughout his career, Birtwistle has been attracted to artistic figures, painting the musician Elvis Costello, actor Jeremy Irons, art critic David Slyvester, artists Craigie Atchinson RA and Sir Peter Blake RA, and his father the internationally-renowned composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle. But it is to David Hockney that Birtwistle keeps returning.
Hockney's status as a national treasure has continued to grow, yet Birtwistle strips away the noise of fame, recognising Hockney as a kindred creative spirit. Candid, playful and revealing, these seventeen studies and one painting give the sensation of sustained time in the company of Hockney. Simple yet bold in execution, Birtwistle captures shifting poses and attitudes.
Birtwistle’s stature as Britain’s principal portraitist has been cemented, due to his unique blend of authentic insight into the innermost thoughts of his sitters and his wry creativity. In the words of Lord Gowrie, ‘Adam Birtwistle is an artist who brings off something uncommon and difficult. He is a serious painter with wit. This quality shows in both composition and brushwork.’ Charles Saumarez Smith CBE, Chief Executive and Secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts (who purchased two portraits by Birtwistle for the National Portrait Gallery during his tenure there), regards Adam Birtwistle, ‘...as one of the best of his generation’.
Intriguing, revealing yet mysterious, Birtwistle's series encourages us to take a seat with Hockney.