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Sitting at this home in Normandy, the 83 year old British artist David Hockney, reaches out for his iPad to create a new body of work which would be entitled The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020. As the title suggests, Hockney turns his attention to the natural milieu which surrounds his house in the North of France, where he is currently residing. Coinciding with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, Hockney gives an optimistic purview to a world sundered by isolation and separation.

As idiosyncratic as the paintings by Hockney that we are familiar with, The Arrival of Spring is also a testament to the artist’s exploration of different media and his ease with it. David’s penchant for bright, sharp colours and hedonistic pursuits are carried in these iPad paintings which were later printed large-scale for the Royal Academy exhibition. Producing the pieces over the past year, the exhibition is hosted at the Royal Academy in London and will run until the 26th September 2021; then move to BOZAR in Normandy 8th October 2021 until 23rd January 2022.

The exhibition speaks of solitude in nature, and escapism - and whilst I write this during Covid-19 , unable to physically visit yet from Paris, Hockney’s work and exhibition online feel very relevant. The foliage, plants, hills and greenery that extend to the horizon depicted in his paintings, manage to create a sort of microcosm which plunges us deep into Hockney’s mind. The work gives the sensation of being as deep in nature as Hockney was when he painted these images. I am reminded of Coleridge’s poem This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison which the poet wrote in 1797. Similar to Hockney, Coleridge was also “stuck” in his countryside amidst a verdure landscape. However, even if at first for Coleridge, being stuck under a tree meant feeling imprisoned, isolated, and secluded from joining his friends on a long walk, at the end, the poet realises nature’s sublime and illuminating value, much like Hockney’s attestation.

Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne’er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty!

Warren Bartolo
Jonathan Wilkinson

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