While the world went into lockdown last Spring, David Hockney, ensconced in his comfortable country house in northern France, took out his iPad and captured the passing of the seasons.
Through circumstance, this Royal Academy show, containing 116 of these iPad pictures, comes at a time when lockdowns are over, and the Burlington House courtyard and the city beyond is ever more crowded. We’re having a springtime, then, even with the days getting shorter.
Even aged 82, Hockney has remained relentless, churning out a picture a day or so at the time, observing the gradients of light on a favourite view, the wire garden furniture outside his window, a treehouse with a precarious ladder he surely doesn’t climb up anymore. Bare branched trees get leaves, blossom. None of the works are named, only numbered.
The show is arranged roughly thematically - a group of flower pictures here - a pair of night views there. The works are mainly, deeply chocolate boxy. Hockney’s a living legend, and he’s assembled enough cred as a living legend to get away with being this banal.
In a video interview accompanying the show, Hockney says, accurately: You’ll come out feeling better. I felt very excited by it - spring is a joyful time, especially in Northern Europe, after you’ve had a winter with the bare trees.”
All those years in California, with less dramatic seasonal changes, meant that he was inspired in coming back in later life.
Taken together, the exhibition’s as enjoyable and transient as an early April sunrise. Just like spring, he leaves us with the promise of more to come.
Less inspiring or joyful is the message just outside the galleries, banning photos of the works - that’d be digital reproductions of digital reproductions - at the artist’s request. Nice flex though David!
David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 is at the Royal Academy (London). 11 August - 26 September 2021