10 June 2014
I went to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition last week. It did not impress me very much. But it reminded me of the last time I was there.
When I visited the David Hockney exhibition in the Royal Academy, I was not expecting much. It was just something one should do, to keep up with the times. But when I saw ‘The Hawthorn Bush’ something extraordinary happened. I was taken into a realm of peace and joy. There was the unmistakable ring of the numinous. It was enormous, it filled a wall by itself, it was a presence in the room. It took up the whole space. It spoke to me.
My heart really did leap up. This was the real thing. Just as when I walked into the Rothko room in the Tate Modern, there was that crash of recognition – that outburst of ‘This is it!’ What such works have in common is that you cannot represent them. No reproduction, no other rendering, can give you the same experience. Just as with Epstein’s statue of ‘Jacob and the Angel’, you have to be there with it, somehow joined with it, admitted to its essence.
‘The Hawthorn Bush’ is different. It is there. It looks at you, and demands that you look at it. But it is not just the looking, it is the being. It is there, with you, in the room. And the other paintings, and the other spectators, fade out, go silent. Just me. And it. Mutually present. This is it.