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Returning in 2011 to his native Yorkshire, The Arrival of Spring in 2011 prints show Hockney’s much-loved renditions of the Northern landscape. Here he began paying attention to the landscapes that surrounded him, the tree lined roads, the light filled woods and the rolling fields. Hearing of his return and prolific output on this subject the Royal Academy in London commissioned him to do a blockbuster exhibition which would see thousands of visitors reconnecting with his work. Commenting on the show, one art lover said, “We're still smiling. Everybody is coming out with a smile on their face. It's fantastic, far better than Leonardo, sorry Leonardo, but all that colour. Yorkshire is going to get a lot of tourists after this.”
While the show was dominated by paintings it also included a daring video installation entitled Four Seasons (Woldgate Woods) which saw the artist filming the same part of the woods through winter, spring, summer and autumn to record the changing of light and plant life in a work that recalls his early photo collages. The talk of the show was undoubtedly Hockney’s iPad paintings however. Presented as prints, one critic called them ‘inescapably dead and bland’ while others marvelled at his ability to master new technology at his advanced age, and to once again push the limits of printmaking by going digital. The Arrival of Spring in 2011 was originally intended to be a single work of art, including one monumental oil painting and 51 of the iPad drawings as prints. These were later split to form 49 prints at a smaller size in an edition of 25 and a group of 12 in a larger size in an edition of 10.
Many of the works from this series show a tree lined road with the characteristic vanishing point perspective that Hockney has favoured in many paintings and drawings before this. Elsewhere we see the bare branches of trees waiting to come back to life, crumbling walls and stylised sign posts. As we move through the series the trees begin to be reborn, their branches filling with leaves and blossom that are so vivid the viewer can almost smell the soft fragrance of spring.
This series represents one of the most important moments in Hockney’s career – the shift from analogue to digital. Presenting enchanting views of the Yorkshire countryside ‘The Arrival of Spring’ offers us his usual bold colour palette combined with more traditional compositions and manages to bring something entirely new to the landscape genre.
The digital lines of the iPad mimic those of his etchings and lithographs and yet remain inherently on the surface, along with the brush marks and dots that attempt to bridge the gap between the screen and the canvas. The colours are just as vivid as his paintings with green, brown, creamy white and pink dominating, as you would expect from this very English countryside. California feels a million miles away as we follow the artist’s homecoming and take in the lush greenery of Yorkshire.
As with any other of Hockney's series, references to the masters that came before him abound. Whether it’s Monet or Van Gogh, Sickert or Spencer, Hockney appears to be reengaging with the tradition of landscape in order to explore its possibilities in the 21st century.
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