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Hockney emails iPhone art to new Paris exhibition

By Laura Allsop for CNN
  • David Hockney presents art made using Brushes app on his iPhone and iPad
  • Images of flowers are presented on actual iPhones and iPads
  • Hockney will email "fresh" artworks for the duration of the exhibition
  • Brushes iPhone app very popular; it has a blog, Facebook page an Flickr group

London, England (CNN) -- When 73-year-old British artist David Hockney began his career, he couldn't have guessed that a cell phone would one day become his canvas.

This is exactly what has happened, though. Using the Brushes app on his iPhone and iPad, Hockney has harnessed the latest accessible technology to draw the most traditional of artist's subjects, the still life.

An exhibition of this art entitled Fleurs Fraiches (Fresh Flowers) has opened at the Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent in Paris.

It features a series of iPhones, iPads and iPod touches bearing images of flowers created by the artist using the Brushes app in his home in Bridlington, East Yorkshire in the UK.

Hockney will also email new images of flowers for the duration of the exhibition, inspiration for the show's name.

Charlie Scheips is the curator of the exhibition, as well as being a good friend of the artist and his one-time assistant.

"About eighteen months ago David got his first iPhone," Scheips told CNN. "It was a novelty at first -- he discovered an app called Brushes and he started doing little pictures of flowers that he would email to his friends like me."

Scheips described waking up in New York to messages on his iPhone containing "these delightful, unmistakable Hockney images."

The majority were of flowers, which Hockney has been drawing ever since the start of his career, but also of sunrises. An early riser, he would get up and virtually "paint" the East Yorkshire sunrise, using his thumb to build the images on the screen of his iPhone.

And when the iPad came out earlier this year, Hockney began to build images on his, with the added bonus that he was now able to watch animations of himself actually creating the works.

Hockney is not alone in his love of the Brushes app, which has become something of an internet phenomenon with its own blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as a dedicated Flickr group where Brushes artists can share their work.

Portuguese illustrator, photographer and graphic designer Jorge Colombo has even used the app to paint a number of covers for The New Yorker magazine.

Though iPhone and iPad images are a departure from Hockney's customary medium, the images bear the hallmarks of his work, namely master draftsmanship and vibrant colors, Scheips said.

In a letter he wrote for the exhibition brochure, Hockney explained that what drew him to using the iPhone and iPad was the luminosity of the screen. He wrote of the images he created: "They were not made for printing as the first thing lost would be their special luminous quality."

The exhibition in Paris will consist mainly of iPhones and iPads featuring three to four images each. Also on view on a large screen will be a short film showing Hockney creating a drawing of the Eiffel Tower on his iPad, giving visitors the chance to watch the painter at work.

Hockney is best known for Pop-inspired paintings such as "A Bigger Splash" (1967), which depicts a splash of water from a recent dive into a pool. According to Scheips, the new digital works are influencing the artist's current paintings and vice versa.

Fleurs Fraiches is the first major exhibition of its kind by one of the most celebrated contemporary artists working today. Nevertheless, the jury is still out on how the art establishment will react to Hockney's 21st century departure from canvas.