Summary

White Lines Dancing in Printing Ink is a colour lithograph on white paper produced by David Hockney working in collaboration with Tyler Graphics, New York. The composition comprises a curvilinear pattern in stark white derived from one continuous, looping line that snakes over a dark, blue and purple background. The blue and purple finish loosely at the edges and traces of splattered or dripped ink appear within the margins of the frame, particularly along the right side. The image was printed in an edition of thirty-five.

Hockney’s career has been characterised by an interest in the use of new technologies, and developing the possibilities of different mediums to create images, including, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, fax and photocopying machines and computer software. Like the ‘fax drawings’ of the 1980s, White Lines Dancing in Printing Ink accentuates texture achieved by the medium, although with different results. Here, the mottling of the dark background, achieved through the lithographic process by overlaying four different colours – dark blue, red, violet and ultramarine blue. The ‘white lines’ of the print’s title are derived from the white paper support, which has not been inked.

The abstracted, curvilinear patterning of White Lines Dancing in Printing Ink is reminiscent of the patterning Hockney used in many of pool paintings and prints of the 1960s to suggest the movement of water. In Picture of a Hollywood Swimming Pool 1965, private collection (reproduced in Stangos, fig.119, p.114), Hockney rejects conventional perspective and depicts the watery surface of the pool as a plane of intertwining loops, not unlike the flattened, swirling effect created by the lines in P12457. Hockney has explained that his method of depicting water in this period was influenced by ‘the later abstract paintings of [Jean] Dubuffet and Bernard Cohen’s spaghetti pictures’ (quoted in Stangos, 1976, p.100).

Jean Dubuffet (1901–85) experimented with line particularly in his Hourloupe cycle, which he initiated in 1962 making doodles with ballpoint pens. In the paintings of this cycle, including Nimble Free Hand to the Rescue 1964 (T00869) and Site Inhabited by Objects 1965 (T00870), Dubuffet marked the canvas with apparently random lines, using a process which sought to undermine the value generally attached to the artist’s role in the creation of the work. In paintings such as In That Moment 1965 (T00800), Bernard Cohen (born 1933) used one continuous, looped line to cover the entire surface of the canvas, creating a sense of randomness and spontaneity in the finished work. Similarly, the lines in White Lines Dancing in Printing Ink, seem randomly deployed and the work’s title privileges movement of an expressionistic kind. As with the visual effects of Dubuffet’s Hourloupe paintings, the loops and curves of P12457 can also be seen to suggest bodies in motion.

Further reading:
Nikos Stangos, ed., David Hockney By David Hockney, London 1976.
David Hockney, That’s the Way I See It, ed. Nikos Stangos, London 1993.
Sean Rainbird, ed., Print Matters: The Kenneth E. Tyler Gift, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2004.

Alice Sanger
May 2009