A swimming pool. A sunkissed naked man lounging next to it. A contrasting harmony of colours. David Hockney’s 60 years of art speak in a language recognisable to everyone who has ever stepped into any museum of contemporary arts. As the living legend of pop art enters the ninth decade of his life, London’s Tate Britain collates 139 of his works in order to create a joyous tale of colour, humour, movement and sexuality.

Red Pots in the Garden 200. Private collection, courtesy Guggenheim Asher Associates

The paintings, moving imagery and photographs are separated into 13 rooms, according to different recurring subjects in his work. Naturalistic tendencies, exploration of open spaces and his personal visions of both Yorkshire and Hollywood landscapes are just some of his recognisable thematic signatures. The Sunbather room covers his love of water and naked boys, with his seminal A Bigger Splash starring in the show. The show goes as far back as his penciled self-portrait from 1954, surrounded by his inexplicably humorous etchings of icons like designer Ossie Clark and Lindy Guinness, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava.

Ossie Wearing a Fairisle Sweater 1970. Private collection

This large collection is the first retrospective of the artist in 30 years and focuses mainly on Hockney’s thought process behind making art. What he’s been doing for over six decades is challenging the idea of traditional art and artmaking, especially the media of painting and photography. Everything from eschewing the one-point perspective through introducing the theme of (homo)sexuality into post-modernism to experimenting with new technology like iPads and iPhones, proves that Hockney has always been a forerunner with a sense of humour. As co-curator Chris Stephens said, this exhibition is about “Hockney looking at the world and the joyous adventure of transporting it onto the canvas."

Billy + Audrey Wilder Los Angeles April 1982. David Hockney Inc.

The David Hockney exhibition opens tomorrow, February 9 at Tate Britain and runs until May 29. Find out more about it and purchase the tickets at tate.org.uk.

Text by Dino Bonacic