Two years ago, David Hockney travelled to rural Normandy in France with the express intention of capturing the arrival of spring. Returning to the medium of ipad (he first used an ipad ten years ago to create a 52-part work of Yorkshire) but this time using a new app.
Given the grim year we have all had, it is really uplifting walking into the airy rooms in the Royal Academy – walls adorned with116 of Hockney's brightly-coloured ipad pictures. Their creation between 11th February 2020 and 4th July 2020 coincided with the beginning of the pandemic and it is also refreshing to experience a lockdown response that celebrates the joy of the natural world as opposed to the usual more depressing reactions.
If we are brutally honest, we couldn't help but yearn for the Hockney of the 60s and 70s. 'Mr and Mrs Clarke and Percy' is one of my all-time favourite paintings and his painted landscapes have much more depth to them. Giverny – where Monet famously witnessed twenty springs – is very close by to the Normandy house in which Hockney based himself, and the French Impressionist is an obvious inspiration to this body of work. It is a struggle not to think that Hockney's images pale into insignificance in comparison but it is also interesting to see a different interpretation.
Reservations aside, this is a feel-good show and it is impossible not to feel warm towards David Hockney and to applaud his determination to still be experimenting with modern technology and different mediums.
We think this exhibition will be great for younger audiences. It would be lovely to think that wannabe artists might be inspired to create their own visual diaries of a piece of nature – to record, as Hockney does, how the same tree – for instance – can change on a near-daily basis. And we think it is important for children to learn that Monet doesn't have the monopoly on water lilies!
Frustratingly, tickets are already like gold dust but you can sign up on the RA website here to be notified when more tickets are released
David Hockney The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020
Opens on Sunday and runs until 26th September
Royal Academy of Arts
Anya Waddington 18th May 2021