Remember you cannot look at the sun or death for very long
On May 1, on digital billboards in five international metropolises—London, Los Angeles, New York, Toyko, and Seoul—Hockney’s public art collaboration with CIRCA launches. The 2 ½ minute–long video, created on his iPad, animates the early morning sun’s radiance over a green field and distant mountains. It is the scene Hockney observed daily from his kitchen window in Normandy during the Covid-19 pandemic. The video starts in darkness and gradually captures the natural environment’s intensifying color. A message from the artist appears at the video’s end, scrawled across a yellow-saturated screen: Remember you cannot look at the sun or death for very long. Remember you cannot look at the sun or death for very long Piccadilly Lights, London
For the month of May the video is screened daily after dark: at Piccadilly Lights in London, on Europe’s largest screen; in New York’s Times Square, as part of the long-running Midnight Moment public art series; on LA’s Sunset Strip at Pendry West Hollywood; at Yunika Vision in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district; at Coex K-POP Square in Seoul’s Gangnam district. Drawing viewers outdoors after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns, Hockney’s vision of spring reaches a vast audience, making it the most expansive global art exhibit ever. Donations from the sale of CIRCA’s time-limited poster by Hockney go to reviving the creative community through cash grants to artists and institutions as well as funding new commissions.
What does the world look like? We have to take time to see its beauty. That’s what I hope my work will encourage people to do when they see it on the large screens.
Drawing from Life continues
The exhibition David Hockney: Drawing from Life continues at the Morgan Library in New York. “Drawing is both the start and the heart of Hockney’s genius,” Willard Spiegelman writes in the Wall Street Journal, adding particular praise for the recent portraits of friends: “They have all profited from the Old Master’s attention and they have inspired him. The collaboration says something about our shared humanity as well as an artist’s fecundity.”
Spring Cannot be Cancelled
Spring Cannot Be Cancelled, a book of conversations and correspondences between Hockney and his longtime interlocuter and friend Martin Gayford, lands in bookstores to coincide with The Arrival of Spring. It covers recent events in Hockney’s life—notably his move to France as an octogenarian—and revisits his long-developed ideas on artists from Bruegel to Van Gogh.
The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020
I drew on the iPad when it first came out, in 2010. … In 2018, Jonathan Wilkinson, my technical assistant, said he could make a new app with a mathematician in Leeds. It was rather good, and then I got six or seven new brushes custom made. I did say I was drawing on the iPad, but actually I’m painting on it.
Marking the full blossoming of spring in 2021, Hockney’s The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 opens at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in late May. An exhibition of 116 images “painted” on his iPad during the Covid-19 pandemic, the exhibition offers an hopeful vision of nature’s irrepressible beauty through the passage of the seasons as observed from Hockney’s home. In the artist’s own description: “When the lockdown came … 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. Then the leaves started, and eventually the blossom fell off leaving a small fruit and leaves, this process took about two weeks, all the time I was getting better at my mark making on the screen, eventually doing, à la Monet, the water lilies in the pond.” Printed on paper for exhibition, the images demonstrate Hockney’s adaptation of new technologies to expand his painting practice, striking optimistic note about humanity’s ability to confront change and envision fresh possibilities.
The arrival of spring in Normandy … takes about three months, and I think it’s the most exciting thing nature has to offer in this part of the world.
Chronicling Life in Normandy
Hockney’s recent images of his home in the French countryside, first shown at Galerie Lelong, Paris, in Autumn 2020, are the focus of solo shows at Gray in New York and L.A. Louver in Venice, California. Both galleries display prints made from original line drawings, including landscapes and views of the different faces of his 17th-century cottage. Revealing the artist’s domestic preoccupations, interior scenes document Hockney’s cozy living and working quarters. Several images were rendered on his iPad, capturing the textures and colors of his home hearth, both lit and unlit, and a still life arrangement of harvested wheat. Also on view at L.A. Louver are the frieze prints Autour de la Maison, Été and Autour de la Maison, Hiver (both 2019): forty-foot-long panoramas detailing various seasonal moments in the intricate landscape surrounding the cottage.
The Joy of Nature travels to Houston
Hockney – Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature, an exhibition exploring the expressive affinity of Hockney and Van Gogh as landscape artists, travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Of his admiration for Van Gogh, Hockney tells Martin Gayford, “I think Van Gogh could draw anything and make it enthralling… I love the little sketches in his letters, which seem like drawings of drawings. They are condensed versions of the big pictures he was painting at the time. … These days he’d be sending them on his iPhone. When you look at them, they contain everything. It’s all there. He certainly didn’t do anything by halves.”
Hockney in Normandy, Gray, New York (Feb 22–Mar 19, 2021).
My Normandy, L.A.Louver, Venice (Mar 9–May 1, 2021); catalogue with texts by Jean Frémon, Donatien Grau, and David Hockney.
The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, Royal Academy of Arts, London (May 23–Sep 26); catalogue with texts by William Boyd, Edith Devaney, and David Hockney.
Hockney – Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Mar 21–June 20).
- David Hockney and Martin Gayford, Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy, London: Thames & Hudson