David Hockney’s The Weather Series elegantly converges Eastern and Western art, drawing inspiration from the Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock printing tradition. This series epitomizes a harmonious blend of intricate detailing and emotional expression, showcasing Hockney's diverse artistic skills. Notably influenced by Ukiyo-e masters Hokusai and Hiroshige, the collection beautifully interweaves the grandeur of nature with cultural elements, creating a striking visual narrative. It not only echoes the intricacies of Japanese art but also reflects Hockney’s own personal and creative evolution, his profound understanding of color dynamics, and his innovative approach to printmaking
David Hockney's The Weather Series has been largely influenced and inspired by the Japanese woodblock printing tradition, especially the Ukiyo-e style, a prominent art form between the 17th and 19th centuries in Japan. The Ukiyo-e style is characterised by its intricate detailing and the evocative portrayal of nature, folklore, and everyday life. Two standout pieces from this collection, Snow and Rain, epitomise this influence. In Snow, Hockney employs a design element frequently observed in Ukiyo-e prints, to suggest depth and spatial recession. Rain, on the other hand, showcases delicate variations of water, quite similar to the way Ukiyo-e masters portrayed water across different settings.
While this series overall leans towards quieter, more subdued colours, Lightning disrupts this calm, acting as a jolt of intensity amidst the tranquillity of its sister prints. The monochromatic hues enhance the atmospheric tension, drawing the viewer into the scene and magnifying the elemental force it represents. His colour choice for those works in particular really point to Hockney’s genius: he can pivot from a serene palette to arresting drama, displaying his understanding of how colour can evoke or even shift emotion in art.
Two of the most renowned Ukiyo-e masters were the source of inspiration behind this collection of Japanese woodblock prints. Hokusai's legacy, perhaps best known for The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, exhibits meticulous details and a deep appreciation for the grandeur of nature and the elements. Hiroshige, celebrated for his Fifty-Three Stations Of The Tōkaidō, offered culturally-rich landscapes that bridge the realms of realism and abstraction. These elements—the reverence for their surroundings and attention to detail—are gracefully mirrored in this collection.
By weaving the traditional motifs of Ukiyo-e with his own techniques, Hockney revealed a synthesis of East and West. The series not only pays homage to the timeless genius of Hokusai and Hiroshige but also reaffirms the universality of art and the seamless merging of diverse influences.
At its core, Mist and Dark Mist captures a visual essence of Japanese Ukiyo-e, yet Hockney juxtaposes this with the distinctly Western iconography of Los Angeles' palm trees. These trees, often associated with the Californian dream, stand tall in the mist, introducing a new take on modernity and urbanisation.
A particularly captivating aspect of this series is its commentary on the circulation of images. This theme emerges prominently in works like Wind, where Hockney integrates a street sign and other elements alongside depictions of his own art pieces being swept away, almost as if carried by the whims of cultural currents.
This visual play acts as a metaphor for the broader movement and influence of art throughout history. It reflects the cyclical nature of art, where past inspirations, from sources like Jeff Wall influence contemporary works, and current artworks inspire future generations.
In 1971, David Hockney embarked on a journey to Japan, a trip that followed his breakup with partner Peter Schlesinger. This period was not just a geographical shift, but also a pivotal movement in Hockney’s personal and creative life. Japan, with its rich history and profound artistic traditions, provided a serene refuge and a fresh lens for Hockney.
Breakups, often challenging and transformative, have the potential to reshape an artist's perspective, pushing them towards new avenues of expression. For Hockney, Japan might have served as a therapeutic backdrop, enabling him to immerse himself in a different culture and aesthetic. This immersion is evident in the subsequent works he produced, reflecting a combination of his own style with the subtle nuances of Japanese art and philosophy. While it's speculative to measure the full impact of personal events on an artist's oeuvre, it's undeniable that Hockney's time in Japan marked a distinctive phase in his career.
Rather than simply looking outward for inspiration, Hockney frequently turns inward to his earlier works, reimagining and revitalising them in fresh, innovative ways. This approach speaks to an artist deeply in touch with his creative journey, using his past as a foundation upon which to build and evolve.
One of the most striking examples of this in Wind is how Hockney revives elements from his work Picture Of Melrose Avenue In An Ornate Gold Frame, a part of his distinguished Hollywood collection. By recontextualising elements from this piece, Hockney challenges the viewer to draw connections between his works, in an effort to make what is old new again, to breathe life into previous masterpieces and give them a renewed context.
Hockney's Mist seem to echo Monet's fascination with light and the environment, qualities central to the Impressionist movement. The stylistic resonance is particularly evident when viewing Monet's River Epte. The poplar trees turn into almost ethereal subjects, considering how the light is able to transform them. The haze, the softening of forms, and focus on the atmosphere—all elements that parallel Monet's technique.
Hockney's work showcases a contemporary twist on these themes, integrating a fresh color palette and modern techniques that redefine the very concept of light and its interplay with the environment. Where Monet often relied on the transient effects of natural light at different times of the day and seasons, Hockney introduces a more consistent, yet equally powerful, light source.
Hockney reached new heights of technical mastery by seamlessly merging lithography and screen printing. This skillful blend of two different printmaking techniques enabled him to layer colours and forms with an unprecedented depth and texture. This expertise wasn't developed in isolation; it was a result of his collaboration with the master printers at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, a partnership that Hockney had nurtured over previous projects. This experience of blending lithography and screen printing would go on to significantly influence Hockney's later collections, such as Moving Focus. Throughout his process, Hockney not only honed his own technical abilities but also contributed to the broader landscape of mixed-media printmaking.
While The Weather Series mostly shifts its focus from Hockney's famed Swimming Pools, traces of his affinity for pools subtly persist. Water, a recurring element in his art, is seen here not just in other works from the series but also in the undercurrents, the reflections, and the fluidity of his prints. Hockney's portrayal in Rain isn't solely about showing water falling from the sky. It highlights his skill in capturing the different ways water can feel and look, from the quiet calm of a pool to the lively energy of rain. Through this piece, we see how Hockney can show both the visual and emotional sides of water, whether it's the peacefulness of still waters or the excitement of a rain shower.
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