Wednesday, September 08, 2021

REVIEW: David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

This morning I went to see David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 at the Royal Academy of Arts. Below are some notes I made while in the exhibition - of assorted thoughts it prompted.

It was the earliest time I could view and the ticket has been on my wall for months! The exhibition finishes on the 26th September and I'd be very surprised if there are any tickets left. 

It's moved from the galleries where they normally hold the Summer/Winter Exhibition (because of the hang for 2021) to The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries in the Burlington Gardens part of the Royal Academy of Arts. It appear they've maybe been hung closer together than in the video below of the hang in the main galleries.

You can find the preamble introducing the exhibition on the RA website - and new the works  in this video

You can also download a large print guide of the paper publication you collect on going into the exhibition. This provides dates for th artworks but not times of day- which I think he did in previous exhibitions

Notes on an exhibition by David Hockney

There are no paintings in conventional art media - they are all done in digital software on his iPad.  There are 116 works in total.

These are the images released as press pics - but to be honest while some are good they don't include the best ones. See if you agree with me when you watch the video.

All works by David Hockney. © David Hockney

Clockwise from top left: No. 125, 19th March 2020. iPad painting. No. 340, 21st May 2020. iPad painting. No.186,11thApril2020.iPadpainting. No. 118, 16th March 2020. iPad painting. No. 316, 30th April 2020. iPad painting. No. 88, 3rd March 2020. iPad painting.No. 370, 2nd May 2020. iPad painting. No. 259, 24th April 2020. iPad painting. No. 133, 23rd March 2020. iPad painting.

The sum of the part

The exhibition is greater than the sum of the parts and it's a mistake to look at them as individual paintings

The impact of seeing them hung - in themes or series - close together on a wall reminds me of exhibitions of Monet's Haystacks (see Monet's series paintings - stacks of wheat (2008) - from which the following quote comes)
Monet was adamant that the series of paintings had an aesthetic quality of its own and that the value of the paintings could only really be appreciated when they were all seen together.
The artworks present well on the background of a dark teal wall. Some would look like quite insipid on an ivory or light coloured wall - but with a dark background they have more impact.

The series I liked the best included:
  • The nocturnes - with very bright moons and deep blue skies - which interestingly were not hung together
  • the blossom - trees / branches
  • plants in pots - indoor and outside (eg 15 and 18 daffodils outside and in bowl indoors)
  • pond paintings
  • paintings of rain

Monet and series paintings in Normady

It then occurred to me that one of the features of Hockney is that he has at various times reflected on various great artists of the past and created his own interpretation of their works.

It struck me that it's no coincidence that he did these in Normany which is Monet's "home turf" - and that Monet was particularly given to creating series of paintings of the same motifs - seen in different weather / seasons / time of day

A number of the motifs in this exhibition are portrayed in a similar way.

Seeing pictures 

One of Hockney's skills is the ability to "see pictures". A lot of what he's portraying is of absolutely no consequence. Indeed many have commented that his paintings are similar.

I think those critical of the iPad paintings in this exhibition forget two things:
  • his age - there are very few artists who continue to create as well a they did in the past as they near he end of their life
  • the context - However at a time when the world turned upside down, recording the simple and the familiar and looking closer at nature is something a lot of people did to help keep a grasp on what is real. (I took to posting my photos of plants every day on my Facebook account - from the same date in the past - to keep a grasp on the world outside when we were locked up at home - when Hockney was creating these artworks. Today I posted #492).
What I noticed was that some of the subjects he took great care over - the notable examples being the trees in full blossom - while others which held less interest (bare trees with no foliage) seemed to receive less attention. 

No 57 was particularly joyful and I was surprised not to see it chosen as an image for the postcards.

The colour of skies

I realised partway round how important the colour of the sky was to some of the images and what a variety of colours he had used for skies


He uses the mark-making available in his Brushes software - but I sometimes want to see him experiment more with available software to see what else it can do.... 

The mark-making hasn't really changed over the last decade. Which is a pity.

The visitors

A very white set of visitors in terms of both skin and hair. It's always interesting to see what older ladies think is appropriate dress for a Hockney exhibition at the RA - but then right now, an expedition into central London is something to appreciate and I dare ay a lot were going out for a very nice lunch afterwards

Which I would have been too - but my ankle rebelled....

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