Arguably, no one understands the idea of the ‘art documentary’ as well as director Phil Grabsky – and this would be because he, to a large part, pioneered the genre.
Visiting Australia for the first time in 10 years, his new film ‘David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts’ was released in Australia in early May, but his history in film is much longer.
A long-time producer of independent art films, he says his first film with Exhibition of Screen in 2011, Leonardo, was a sell-out and by end of 2017, the company had done 19 feature films distributed in 61 countries.
Passionate about the film, making the feature was unique for him. “Hockney is the first living artist we have done in a film. So, it is very straight-forward. But he is such a good interviewee – he's engaging, entertaining and he is funny. The audience is drawn to him.”
Aware of the difficulties of dealing with a living artist, Phil feels he was able to capture the real David Hockney, as difficult as that can be in a film. “A film like this relies on the quality of the interviews, and Tim Marlow, who became the Artistic Director of the Royal Academy, is one of the best interviewers I know. ”
With 32 films under his belt, it is the knowledge in the artist that he greatly admires. “What the film shows is here is man, which is inspirational. A man with creativity, imagination, in his now ninth decade, getting better at his art.”
Covering the extensive exhibitions that Hockney had in 2012 with his landscapes and 2016 with his portraits, Phil says Hockney isn’t an artist that rests on his laurels but one that gets better with age.
“The thing that happens with artists is that they don’t care anymore. He does what he is going to do – and that comes with age.”
Witnessing the transformation of documentaries coming into cinemas less than two decades ago, Phil says he is happy to be part of the revolutionised documentary, showing art documentaries to the growing mainstream.
“The truth is people have been loving art for all of human history. So, you have to create the appetite for it.”
Phil Grabsky's company, Exhibition on Screen will in 2018 be presenting its Season 5 collection, featuring four other films: Canaletto and the Art of Venice, Cezanne: Portraits of a Life, I, Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh; A New Way of Seeing. These films will be released in Australia throughout 2018.
See David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts in your local cinema today.