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  • Writer's pictureRomina Rosso

David Hockney The Arrival of Spring, Normandy 2020

David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring Normandy 2020, 2020, Royal Academy of Arts, London

Royal Academy of Arts, London 11 August- 26 September 2021

David Hockney had returned this summer at the Royal Academy for his new exhibition The arrival of Spring, Normandy 2020 with 116 iPad paintings.

The Royal Academy is a natural home for David Hockney, the world more expensive living artist and one of the most popular and widely recognised artists of our time.

He is painted his way through several decades, experimenting with and embracing new technologies.

Hockney went back to “the most classical of subjects” nature, that he already depicted in two previous exhibitions in 2012 A bigger Picture and in 2014 The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, both exhibitions about his lovely Yorkshire and both experimenting the new technique of the iPad paintings.

In the autumn of 2018, the artist visited Normandy following the installation of his stained-glass window in Westminster Abbey. He thought it would be a good place to draw and paint the arrival of spring, something he'd done around a decade earlier in East Yorkshire.

Conveying the passage of time through painting has always been a major preoccupation of Hockney, an avid reader of Marcel Proust. The idea germinated in his mind to renew what he had accomplished in his native Yorkshire ten years ago, only this time with the Norman landscape: painting the 'Arrival of Spring' in its unfolding, as if it were a narrative.

He was attracted to Normandy because it offered a broader range of blossoms, with apple, cherry, pear and plum trees, as well as the hawthorn and blackthorn he had painted before.

He settled in a timbered house in rural Normandy and set up a studio in the adjacent barn.

Hockney at his house in Normandy accompanied by his dog, Ruby, JEAN-PIERRE GONÇALVES DE LIMA, © DAVID HOCKNEY

David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring Normandy 2020, n. No. 316, 30th April 2020, Royal Academy of Arts, London

During that time, Hockney has been preparing for the exhibition of the Royal Academy when the Covid pandemic spread and forced all the World to a global lockdown. The artist isolated in Normandy with his dog Ruby and two of his long-standing assistants, JP and Jonathan.

In the Arrival of Spring Hockney started to paint from February until June 2020 as in contrast to the dramatic event of the pandemic, his focus is in the emergence of spring in a celebration of the joy of the natural world, which reminds us, as he does himself in one of his often-repeated phrases, to “love life”.

David Hockney, Do remember they can’t cancel the spring, Normandy 2020

Hockney in the Spring 2020 published on Instagram a drawing composed on his iPad, the image depicts a cluster of bright yellow daffodils blossoming in the midst of a green field with a grey and barren landscape in the distant background titled “Do remember they can’t cancel the spring”, to mark that art can rescue all of us.

Walking through the exhibition in the Royal Academy you have the visual impact of the bright colours, green, purple, yellow, blue. His art gives you joy, happiness and nourishes your soul.

In these colourful paintings we can see an echo of the French Impressionist, the Pointillists and of course Van Gogh.

Hockney is admirable for his enthusiasm to record dramatic seasonal effects, for his incredible productivity (116 works), and his use of new technologies.

Although some criticised deeply his use of the Ipad painting, for its two-dimensional nature and for the fact that it is easily to spot his palette of tools, I found it extremely fascinating in an artist of 83 years old.

David Hockney was always innovative when, as a student, he started printmaking, is his constant desire to master new media: as the Polaroid, the colour photocopier, the fax and experimenting multi-panelled digital videos.

Hockney has always welcomed the challenge of picturing transparency.

The sheen of glass, passage of light, splash of water, all predominate within his paintings, drawings and photography since the mid-1960s.

In 2009 glass and technology came together in his discovery of the iPhone, and the following year the iPad, as a new drawing instrument. On the iPhone he drew on the small back-lit glass screen with the side of his thumb, changing to a stylus with the larger screen of the iPad, to offer a different variety of line and a new luminosity of colour.

Hockney started to use the app Brushes, that he found extremely good in quality and he mastered the wealth of the possibilities it offers, valuing the freedom and mobility it allows to capture his subject.

In 2015 Apple modified the app making it two much sophisticated and difficult to use for the artist but he received a help from a mathematician of Leeds who adapted and developed the app for his specific requirements. For an artist speed is essential and the Ipad medium allows the artist to capture the light from any morning and putting details and filter later.

Speed is a great thing in drawing and painting for example Van Gogh was doing one or two painting a day and Hockney did sometimes three Ipad painting a day, and as he said: “light changes colour fast I can change brushes fast”.

He worked every day for 3 months (90-100 days), producing 116 drawings that show you a three-dimensional effect obtained by the use of light and pointillism.

All the works are in fact iPad sketches in 1.5 metre paper printouts and they provided a vision of uniformity in shape and subject.

David Hockney, The arrival of Spring Normandy 2020, Royal Academy of Arts, London

His pictures are a record of how he, uniquely, is experiencing reality of his subject and the space in which it exists.

This kind of presentness, and sense of presence, is, I think, what Hockney would like to capture.

He has always been good at finding surprising and elegant ways to orchestrate differences: the apple tree against the sky, the light on the water, the splash in the still pool. These allow your eye to alight on things in different ways, just as the mind records what the eye sees with various degrees of nuance and recognition.

The point being that his images are the product of him looking directly at nature and depicting or representing what he sees by transmitting his sensory reaction.

Hockney said: “We have lost touch with nature rather foolishly as we are a part of it, not outside it”.

In this exhibition he gave a rare opportunity to many people that never had the time to see the passage from the dark winter to the colourful spring and recorded this dramatic change.

This exhibition, after all the difficult moment of the pandemic, gave a real sense of hope and joy as “nobody can’t cancel the spring, everything else can stop but spring can’t” and in the same time made you reflect about the value of art and the media involved in its creation and as Hockney said: “There is not such a thing as digital art or charcoal art or pencil or oil painting art. There is only art actually”

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