Against the back-drop of a single-story modernist building with its flat roof, large windows and, behind, two tall, slender palm trees, the greater part of the painting is taken up with a view of the ubiquitous Californian swimming pool.
A chair stands on the far side of the pool serving to emphasise the emptiness of the scene.
A diving board juts diagonally into the painting. What is implied by Hockney, but not shown, is that someone has just dived into the pool and disappeared below the surface. We see only the splash the diver has created, disturbing the previously unruffled blue water.
What is striking about the painting is this contrast between the straight lines, flat surfaces and stillness of the scene and the irregular, dynamic movement of the splash itself.
A Bigger Splash is painted using acrylic paints. Hockney was one of the first artists to use this then relatively new artistic medium which he considered particularly suited to depict the hot, dry landscapes of California.
The colours are bright and vibrant, in particular the turquoise blues of the pool and sky and the warm pinks of the building and the ground. There is little that is natural in this scene beyond the palm trees and the dark green foliage running along the front of the building. In his use of color Hockney infuses the painting with the strong light of California.
The edge of the canvas has been left unpainted which produces the suggestion of a photographic print. A photograph, taken from a book on the building of swimming pools, was one of the sources for this painting along with Hockney’s own, earlier, drawing of Californian buildings.
And, like a photograph, A Bigger Splash captures a moment in time. Hockney has said that, when creating this painting, he loved the idea of taking two weeks to produce an image of an event that lasts only two seconds. But a photograph can only show the viewer what the camera sees. “A Bigger Splash” reveals what an artist of David Hockney’s stature sees.