Rampant is a five colour lithograph produced by David Hockney in collaboration with Tyler Graphics, New York. The composition is dominated by a curving and swirling bipartite form. Coloured blue, this object is densely if sparingly shaded to suggest three-dimensionality. It resembles two abstracted jets of water erupting from a central opening at image’s lower edge. The form is framed on three sides by a curving and uneven purple border. The print’s title suggests a bold, unrestrained movement or emotion. Rampant was produced in an edition of fifty.
Hockney’s output in the late 1980s and early 1990s is characterised by the wide range of mediums in which he worked, encompassing printmaking, painting, theatre design and ‘fax drawings’ (images produced using a facsimile machine). Many of these very different works have iconographic features in common, including a focus on curving abstracted forms, which often derive from the study of landscape. In The Sea at Malibu 1988, private collection (reproduced in Hockney, p.197, fig.233), the artist accentuates in the middle ground the undulating shapes suggested by land and ocean, shapes that find a parallel in the sweeping and curling blue form of Rampant. In his prints and to some extent in the paintings of the early 1990s, Hockney uses abstracted forms to create an impression of layering, rather than depth. To Hockney, the issue of layering that is often evident in collage, a medium in which he has also worked, is integral to the process of printmaking. He has explained: ‘When you are making prints your mind starts thinking in layers; you are separating colours and thinking in layers’ (Hockney, pp.117–21).
During 1991–2 Hockney designed two operas: Turandot for the San Francisco Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which he finished in March 1991, and Die Frau ohne Schatten for the Royal Opera, London, completed in April 1992. His designs for these productions were characterised by bold, brightly coloured and lit stage sets that used abstract shapes and planes. The design appears closely related to the artist’s large-scale oil paintings of the same period. Similarly, the composition of Rampant evokes a stage set: a backdrop framed by a proscenium arch. More specifically, the composition creates an effect that is visually similar to Hockney’s design for the palace garden in Turandot, a set hung with abstracted willow fronds and lit a deep blue (Peattie, p.24) (see http://www.hockneypictures.com/turandot.php#
, ‘Stage Design for Turandot’, accessed 14 July 2009).
Antony Peattie, ‘Hockney’s Living Colour,’ Design Quarterly, no.156, summer, 1992, pp.21–7.
David Hockney, That’s the Way I See It, ed. Nikos Stangos, London 1993.
Paul Melia and Ulrich Luckhardt, David Hockney, Munich 2007.