The Royal Academy of Arts re-opens its doors to the public this week to a plethora of exhibitions celebrating the end of the lockdown. One of the most evocative of the times we live in is David Hockney’s ‘The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020’ comprising a new body of work made throughout last year’s spring, in a period when Hockney, along with the rest of Europe and much of the world, were in a state of lockdown. Like many of us, the artist took solace in nature and focused on celebrating life through observing and capturing the emergence of spring in a rural corner of France, in the gardens and fields close to the small period property he lived in.
This is the first time the 116 iPad landscape canvases have been exhibited, exactly a year after the works were made. We went along to see the collection and although it lacks a lot of the interactive and immersive elements that we’ve come to expect from exhibitions we came up with 3 reasons you should visit too.
It’s mostly about the trees
Spring is the nature’s opening show where trees are always taking the center stage wearing their festive costumes. In Hockney’s own words “We were in a house in the middle of a four acre field full of fruit trees. I could concentrate on one thing, I did at least one drawing a day with the constant changes going on, all around the house. I kept drawing the winter trees, and then the small buds that became the blossom, and then the full blossom.” The predominant use of bright shades of green shines through the RA’s galleries with every brush stroke taking the viewer to a dreamy journey to an enchanted land that wakes up to life in spring. We were delighted to notice a couple of paintings featuring a treehouse or two.
The entire collection has been ‘painted’ on an iPad. Throughout his long career Hockney has explored a variety of media in the making of art, as well as investigating the ways in which new technology can be appropriated. The beginning of 2020 saw his renewed interest in the iPad, when a mathematician updated the ‘brushes’ app on the newest model, tailoring it and developing many features in response to Hockney’s specifications. This also enabled Hockney to capture his subjects rapidly, without needing to set up the paraphernalia associated with painting or drawing. This will appeal to a young audience as they are naturally familiar with a notepad and use of fingers as first digital drawing and painting brush. Parents can also appreciate the way of making art without the usual mess that comes to using the traditional mediums and techniques (gotta love a mess free arts and craft session). The digital works adorning three rooms in the Main Galleries have been printed on paper at a large-scale and densely hung evoking a sense of emersion in nature.
It is child-like
Hockney is the one artist that during his long creative career gave art a common touch. The child-like depiction of nature in this exhibition makes the art, as a subject, more accessible. The 83 year old artist is making use of digital as an art medium here to explore the possibility of creating a Monet style garden landscape using pop-art technique. As he explained, he spent a lot of time making marks using every digital brush variation to draw and experiment with the thousands of marks they made. Zooming into the detail of each painting is easy to see and relate to drawing using simple lines, dots and brush marks of all sizes to innovate and create paintings of beautiful gardens and landscapes. We loved the way the many moods of spring are shown here moving through its debut in February and transitioning to summer in June. Some images show the bright and happy sunrise shining through the bare tree branches or the misterious and romantic moonlight shining over the quiet fields whilst other paintings depict the sadness of a rainy day. This colourful event left us not just talking about taking time to celebrate the joyous celebration of seasons but also gave us a lot of inspiration to pick up a brush, digital or otherwise, and create our own masterpieces.
David Hockney’s ‘The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020’ is at Royal Academy in London from 23 May to 26 September 2021. Full details about tickets and booking are available via the website here.