David Hockney – The Arrival of Spring at Annely Juda

12 June 2014 § Leave a comment

Following on from the excellent Yoshishige Saito exhibition (reviewed on AKUTA last month) Annely Juda are showing everyone’s favourite Yorkshire artist, David Hockney. Showing in the upstairs gallery are a series of sixteen bold and striking iPad drawings entitled The Arrival of Spring that the observant amongst you may have seen in the impressive Hockney show at the Royal Academy – A Bigger Picture (previously reviewed here).

David Hockney Arrival of Spring When exhibited at the RA this series was shown in a darkened room on iPads mounted to the wall. Here they are an altogether different proposition blown up to nearly 5×4 ft (a selection of four are even larger) and filling the gallery. The increase in scale does not always work. There are some strange looking blobs and areas that seem unfinished but on the whole Hockneys’s eye for colour and form wins over and its hard not to admire his virtuosity on the small screen of the iPad.

David Hockney Arrival of Spring

The unerring digital brush strokes and the even coloration also work well in lending the landscapes a slightly unreal air. This slightly artificial look would be strange were the landscapes realistic but it works well with the strangely exotic colour schemes that Hockney’s keen eye draws from the subtle tones of the Yorkshire Wolds.

David Hockney Arrival of Spring

Amongst the iPad drawings the film Woldgate Woods, November 26th 2010 is also being shown: nine video monitors chart a slow progress through a snowy wooded landscape in East Yorkshire. Strangely hypnotic.

David Hockney Arrival of Spring

The second gallery space has been reserved for a series of new charcoal drawings which Hockney made in the Spring of 2013 following the RA show. Looking for a change from colour he stated “The Chinese say black and white contains colour, and so it can. They are five separate views of Woldgate, and with each one I had to wait for the changes to happen. Some were too close to the previous ones and I realised I was being impatient. I had to wait for a bigger change. I thought it was an exciting thing to do. It made me look much harder at what I was drawing.” (Guardian)

David Hockney Arrival of Spring

The absence of colour makes one look more closely at these pieces just as he looked harder drawing them. The effort is rewarded with an appreciation of his light touch and observant eye in these carefully observed sketches of leafy lanes and snowy woods.

David Hockney Arrival of Spring

David Hockney The Arrival of Spring at Annely Juda until 12 July 2014

The printed works are available in edition of 25. A further four prints have been printed in large format and mounted on dibond in an edition of 10.


hockney, gossage, walden and marsh lane

26 January 2012 § Leave a comment

The new David Hockney exhibition A Bigger Picture, that has just opened at the RA revisits the countryside of his childhood – the Yorkshire Wolds. It celebrates his engagement with nature, and here, more than ever before he employs his acute powers of observation to observe the attractive, but to most, unremarkable local countryside. It is the minute detail of his observation – the colours, the change of the seasons that is remarkable.

It brought immediately to mind the classic novel Walden – or a life in the woods by David Thoreau. Back in the 1840’s, leaving civilisation behind – but not too far away – he experienced a life of subsistence whilst observing in minute detail the natural life around him. He inspired, so it is said, the conservation movement and National Park system of the United States as well as one of the most revered photo-books of all time – The Pond by John Gossage.

Like Hockney’s Wolds and Thoreau’s Walden this book is, at first, unremarkable. Simple black and white images record a vague path and some scruffy landscapes, casually photographed. It is only after a few pages that you realise that you are taking a walk with the author – one that ends at an unremarkable latter-day Walden. The tactic is also incidentally one that Hockney uses – many of his paintings place the spectator on a path/track/road in to the landscape and invite you to take an imaginary stroll. It may disappoint some, but it is a subtle and philosophical book, one that emphasises the importance of the observation of what is around you rather than the creation of beautiful images.

It struck me that the above artist, writer/philosopher and photographer all have in common a deep involvement with nature and its observation. Each record it in at least one different way, including Hockney’s embracing of one the latest technologies, the i-pad. 

So where does Marsh Lane come in? This is the lane beside my house where I walk my dog every day. It is unremarkable, muddy and flat with some scruffy hedges and farmland. Sometimes an unnamed local builder uses it to tip waste when he can’t be bothered to go to the council dump (we’ll get him one day). Inspired, I thought it was time to take a couple of photos – just using a blackberry this is from one morning a week ago. Here are my modest results – anyone can do it using perhaps an i-pad, i-phone or blackberry. No excuses, it’s your turn now!

david hockney: a bigger picture at the RA

25 January 2012 § 2 Comments

There seems to be a certain amount of unnecessary sniping at David Hockney following the opening of this exhibition last week. Brian Sewell in the Standard said that it was ‘overblown’, ‘repetitive’ and ‘garish‘. Laura Cumming in the Guardian thinks much is ‘inert and dehumanised‘. It is all ‘Too polite and unthinkingly happy’ for Alistair Sooke in the Telegraph. Just what were they expecting? Bold new experiments in contemporary art? Perhaps Hockney has led us to expect too much following a lifetime of consistent quality?

Once we are past the excellent four seasons of Thixendale Trees of the central hall, inspired by Monet, the show is largely chronological. From some early student works (my preferred) that already show his prodigious talent, we move on to American landscapes that include the clever photographic joiner Pearblossom Highway. It is cleverer than I thought – did you realise that the right side of the picture is the drivers view, the left the passengers – all signs and instruction versus casual observation? No, neither did I.

 More, many more, landscapes follow – smaller watercolours and oils from direct observation, ‘tunnels’ of tracks and roads, Woldgate woods and the Arrival of Spring’. Perhaps too many, but undeniably showing his clarity of vision and clever observation. There is enough variation though: there are the changing viewpoints of the multi-canvas paintings that drag you right in to the landscapes; the almost surreal Hawthorn blossom paintings; clever i-pad drawings including the huge ‘how did he do that on an i-pad’ ones of Yosemite; the vivid colours of Woldgate woods where darkest winter is transformed by brilliant colours.

There is film too. Made with nine cameras Hockney’s converted vehicle trundles along country lanes whilst recording – Google street-view-like – whatever it passes, largely the landscape of course but litter, passing cars and occasional cyclist not excepted. Each film is shown side by side with another of the same location (both same and opposing views) in a different season. Here is nature in glorious close-up and it makes us look – hard, much harder than we expect. We look at the weeds and hedgerows in fine detail observing everything anew – this is Walden on wheels.  The films too reconcile his key themes – looking, time, memory, movement and change.

Of course one could be critical about some of the work. Personally I found The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate – the 32-canvas centrepiece of the exhibition – rather a disappointment and over-stylised, but really, who cares? This is wonderful exhibition from our greatest living artist and it should be celebrated that at 75 years of age Hockney has produced such a large and inspirational body of work. Forget Leonardo – this is the biggest show of the year. Whatever its flaws this is the must-see of a summer.

At the Royal Academy until 9 April 2012

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