Drawn on an iPad during lockdown, the artist’s masterpieces illuminate London, writes ROBERT HARDMAN
While others clung to the onset of this pandemic, hitting toilet rolls, and watching TV shit for hours on end, our most successful living artist had other ideas.
In all weather, at all hours – at the age of 82 – David Hockney was in his garden capturing the micro-chaos of spring breaking out across four acres of Normandy countryside. The result is 116 ‘paintings’, entirely composed on an iPad during a 95-day lockdown.
And later this month, audiences can immerse themselves in Hockney’s latest incarnation of his unofficial motto, ‘Love life’, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
The series is called ‘The Arrival Of Spring, Normandy, 2020’.
This is a good thing, as it’s probably the closest many of us will get to the land of Camembert and Calvados this summer (let alone the rest of France, unless it’s on the green travel list).
Hockney’s house, No. 316, is a Norman half-timbered farmhouse that looks like it dates back to the Conqueror
There’s something uplifting about the way this work-addict Yorkshireman portrays the things that come to life on the grounds of Chateau Hockney.
It is in fact a half-timbered Norman farmhouse that looks like it dates back to the time of the Conqueror. There are no humans or animals in the studies.
Before the coronavirus brought the world to a halt, Hockney (now 83) and his assistant Jean-Pierre were looking for a rental property in Normandy until he was told he might not be allowed to smoke in rented premises.
No 118 shows an ant perspective of imperious daffodils by the painter who collaborated with a mathematician and software specialists to refine the medium
Painting No. 125 by David Hockney marks the first outbreak of pear tree blossom with a tree house (above)
As one of the tobacco industry’s greatest aficionados, Hockney had none. So he decided to buy this place (having set a world record for a living artist when his 1972 Portrait Of An Artist fetched £ 70 million at auction, Hockney is not without resources).
He calls it his ‘Seven Dwarfs house’ and has spent what he described as a thoroughly civilized lockdown, rummaging around with his iPad, donkey and dog Ruby.
Hockney is known for trading the dingy black and white of post-war Bradford for the sun and color of 1960s California. But after deciding he wanted to capture all spring, he chose to live in Europe. settle.
As he points out, the seasonal changes here are so much more pronounced than in California, where it just goes from warm to hot.
So we see one of his first subjects, a cherry tree, leafless against a February sky. But soon life begins to sprout. One ‘painting’ offers an ant perspective of some imperious daffodils. Another marks the first outbreak of pear tree blossoms with a tree house.
The ‘paintings’ are arranged in a rough chronological order and one of his first subjects, No. 133, shows a cherry tree standing leafless against a February sky
Purists will doubt that this is not a real ‘painting’, but Leonardo da Vinci would no doubt have said the same about acrylic. Hockney has always recognized that this is a different medium.
But he says the fun of the iPad is its ability to work extremely quickly, without all the clutter of the conventional artist. You don’t have to wait for every layer to dry.
In the book accompanying this show – introduced by William Boyd – Hockney also says he never intended to paint many of the nighttime scenes.
Then he says, “I just got up to pee, saw the moon and thought,” I’m just drawing this now. ” And because it’s an iPad, you can just draw just as you are. ‘
He’s even worked with a mathematician and software specialists to fine-tune the medium, not to mention slight variations in every shade of green and blue.
Some of the most lavish trees and hedges are thousands of dots on closer inspection. All works are printed on paper. Without frames and without names (each work is simply a number), the overall effect gives a raw vitality to the exhibition.
The ‘paintings’ are arranged in rough chronological order. Towards the end we see summer breaking out and green branches against a wheat field. It could almost be a nod to a tree scene by another artist who escaped to the warm French countryside, Vincent van Gogh.
No. 88 of the artist’s work featuring some of the most lavish trees and hedges are thousands of dots on closer inspection
Here too are water lilies, which invite comparisons to Claude Monet, who painted his lily ponds in nearby Giverny for years.
How long Hockney’s neighbors will put up with him is another matter. This week he said that the country of Monet, Cezanne and Matisse is no longer able to produce a decent work of art. “I’m teaching the French how to paint Normandy,” he told The Guardian. “They’ve stopped painting, haven’t they?” You can get the boy from Yorkshire …
- David Hockney: The Arrival Of Spring, Normandy, 2020, will take place May 23 to August 1 and August 11 to September 26 at the Royal Academy of Arts (royalacademy.org.uk, 020 7300 8090).