In celebration of the reopening of Tate Britain, Tate Etc. invited a selection of artists from around the world to choose a favoured work from a fellow artist currently on display. Here, Nicholas Hlobo discusses David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash 1967

When I was in England I went to the David Hockney museum in Saltaire, a Victorian model village outside Bradford. I discovered that apart from making paintings and collages, he also designed sets for the stage. I have similar interests and siddenly became very curious about him and his work. I bought a DVD at the gift shop.

I loved the fact that he was a star and moved to California to join other stars. I was also fascinated by the subtlety with which he confronted his sexuality. It’s all beneath the surface. His paintings are seemingly empty. In A Bigger Splash, the swimmer isn’t even there, only a trace. But in that sense the splash is the ghost of a very private meeting between the painter and the painted. It’s a portrait of lust and leisure in one Los Angeles summer. The human figure is projected by its absence. Just like my sculptures suggest a presence that isn’t present.

Nicholas Hlobo (born 1975) is an artist living in Johannesburg.