The Weather Series David Hockney
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Hockney has long been fascinated with Japanese art and culture, and nowhere is this more evident than in his 1973 suite, The Weather Series.
Hockney first visited Japan in 1971 after breaking up with Peter Schlesinger. This trip inspired paintings such as Mount Fuji and Flowers and his famous photo collages of the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto. Hockney was also particularly taken by the woodblock printing tradition and many of the prints in this series reference the Ukiyo-e style, and particularly the work of Japanese masters Hokusai and Hiroshige.
Works such as Snow and Rain from the series feel very close to this tradition, with their evocative and yet minimal scenes of water in its various states, while elsewhere Hockney’s unique vision of LA filters through. Works such as Mist feature the city’s iconic palm trees – while at the same time referencing Monet’s painting of poplar trees along the River Epte – and Wind depicts a road sign for Melrose Avenue, placing us squarely on the west coast.
Wind also reminds us of Hockney’s love for self-referencing and doubling – seen in earlier series such as A Hollywood Collection – as he depicts prints from the series being blown away into the sky in a reference to Hokusai’s Ejiri in the Suruga Province (a work that would also later be referenced by photographer Jeff Wall). For the Sun print of the series, Hockney has chosen a classic subject from his oeuvre, a still life in a bright interior, where a plant basks in rays of sunlight that complement the lines of the shutters just behind. Finally, in Lightning we catch a glimpse of his unmistakable landscape style, featuring a winding road and hills on either side, a composition he favoured for his later depictions of Yorkshire as well as Southern California. This work, the only monochrome piece of the series, and dominated by a lightning bolt that adds instant narrative to the scene, recalls his 1969 series of etchings, Illustrations For Six Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm.
With this series we see Hockney perfecting the combination of lithography and screen printing, a technique he would later go on to use to great effect in series such as Moving Focus, Some New Prints and Some More New Prints. The portfolio was produced in collaboration with master printers Gemini G.E.L. of LA whom Hockney had worked with before. With works such as Rain, we see Hockney pushing the medium even further, to see what happened if he tried to mimic the effect of water on ink; “I loved the idea of the rain as it hit the ink [and] it would make the ink run” he said of the process, “The moment I thought of the idea I couldn't resist it.” The artist had originally planned to produce a larger series, which would include depictions of frost and a rainbow; however these never became a part of the final set and remain as tests outside the series.
Why is The Weather Series so important?
Hockney’s ‘Weather’ series represents his ongoing dialogue with the art and culture of Japan while at the same time reframing a familiar subject in a whole new light. By choosing to focus solely on atmospheric conditions, Hockney reveals another layer to his LA oeuvre, where pools, interiors and still lifes tend to dominate.
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