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Hockney exhibits new drawings

DAVID HOCKNEY, arguably Britain's greatest living artist, has flown in from his home in California to open his first exhibition of new drawings in two decades. For the first time, too, he has also designed the accompanying catalogue - a work of art in itself in that by drawing on video, computer and printing technology, he created works that differ from those on the walls.

The show, which opens this Wednesday, runs seven days a week until the end of September and admission is free.

Mr Hockney, an artist who cannot resist experimenting with the latest technology at his fingertips - from faxes to photocopiers - has this time used a video camera: just as technology has in the past been among Mr Hockney's tools of expression, his own video tour of his drawings becomes his eyes - showing the viewer how the artist looks at them.

Mr Hockney said: 'I made it . . . so it's me looking at the drawings . . . which is very different to someone else picking out the details.'

They include some 70 portraits of friends and family, which will be unveiled at the 1853 Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, near Bradford, his childhood home; it then continues to New York and Los Angeles. All date from the last few months; some are as fresh as this weekend.

Although Mr Hockney, born in 1937, has never stopped drawing, his stage sets and paintings, among other projects, have dominated his public work.

The show is titled 'Some drawings of family, friends, and best friends'. Friends will not have to wonder which category they fit into: the best friends are his pet dogs, a play on dogs being 'man's best friend', Mr Hockney told the Independent yesterday.

Sitters range from his 93-year- old mother and R B Kitaj, his close artist-friend, to his two pet dachshunds, Stanley (after Stan Laurel) and Boodge. All are in black crayon on off-white paper, and were done from life in about two hours - though 'the dogs . . . had to be drawn rather quickly,' he explained, 'and I had to make sure paper was all over the house and studio as to move away and get it meant the dogs moved as they always follow me.'

Mr Hockney said that when his mother, who appears in a dozen portraits, asked him why he never drew her smiling, he told her that 'you can't smile for half an hour'.

He was inspired to experiment with the drawn images because the subtleties of the drawings' fine, soft lines did not photograph well. The video camera, he said, 'tends to make a greater contrast than exists in the drawing'. He produced stills from the video and edited parts of the images with a computer and colour laser printing-machine. He could, for example, home in on someone's glasses and eyes, and enlarge those details alone.