Vibrant and cheerful are some of the words that can perfectly describe David Hockney’s exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020. ‘The Arrival of Spring’ also happens to be the name of his first iPad work, which was done back in 2011. One of the most renowned and acclaimed British artists of these days, Hockney showcases his new works, which were done on an iPad whilst the world was going through lockdown, and the uncertainty of when things would go back to some form of normality.
Over the past year, the artist spent quite some time in his Normandy home in France. This became the perfect opportunity to observe the scenery, nature and the changing of the seasons. Coincidence or not, his French refugee is just a few miles away from Monet’s house in Giverny – who has also documented the arrival of spring during the tough times of the First World War. This isn’t the first time Hockney uses nature and his surroundings as a central theme to an exhibition – ‘A Bigger Picture’ showcased also in the Royal Academy in 2012 brought a mix of his work in different media like charcoals, videos and paintings inspired by Yorkshire’s countryside.
Using technology as an art tool isn’t something new for Hockney – he started experimenting with it in 2007 with his iPhone and later migrated to his iPad and Stylus pen. In 2010, he presented ‘Fresh Flowers’ at the Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris, on iPads and iPhones hung on the walls. Since then, he’s done quite a few exhibitions showcasing a mix of digital works and paints around the world.
The novelty this time is the use of a new iPad app that has been designed specifically for him.
From February until June 2020, when the world was plunging into difficult times and experiencing the first lockdown, Hockney turned to nature to find some joy, uplifting and as a reminder to ‘love life’, as he always says. For him, Covid didn’t mean a big shift in plans – spending a few months in Normandy documenting the spring, one of his recurrent and most beloved themes was already on the calendar.
On the 116 ‘paintings’ in the exhibition, we can identify for times the same landscape in different lightings and times of the day – from the bright early hours to the sunset’s pastel tones. Hockney depicts the subtlety of the landscape change throughout the days creating a chronological and beautiful timeline of spring’s arrival. One of the first works you come across when entering the gallery is a video of a green landscape being washed out by the rain – you could just sit and watch for hours. The richness of the colours and details captured by the different brushes and shapes are fascinating.
‘The Arrival of Spring’ wasn’t successfully acclaimed by the critics who have described it as unsatisfying, uninspiring and flat. Most criticisms came from the fact that you can’t merge and mesh colours like you can with physical paints and you could easily identify the different brushes and tools used. For us, it brought much of the joy and the enthusiasm characteristics from spring, in times when it’s much needed – and appreciated.
David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 was running in the main galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts in London until the 1st of August and is reopening on the 11th of August on the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries until 26th of September 2021.