Culture

For David Hockney, lockdown was natural blessing

David Hockney poses before his 'A year in Normandy', a 91-meter-long work painted during the 2020 lockdown, at Paris' Orangerie museum, October 7, 2021. (Photo by Thomas Coex/ AFP)

PARIS: British artist David Hockney has always been a workhorse, so his months of lockdown in France were a welcome opportunity to devote himself to observing nature.

“I really enjoy looking,” the dapper 84-year-old told AFP. “If you look at the world, it’s very beautiful, but you’ve got to have a clear head and there’s lots of things that stop you looking.”

Hockney was speaking to AFP at the Musee de L’Orangerie in Paris, which is displaying the stunning fruits of that period in an exhibition, “A Year in Normandy”, that opens October 13.

It features a 91-metre-long frieze made up from some of the 220 pictures he created during the strange year of solitude in 2020.

It is a clear nod to the 19th century masters of landscape, particularly Monet, who inhabits some of the neighbouring rooms in the museum.

“When the lockdown came I didn’t mind at all,” said Hockney, 84, resplendent as ever in his trademark round-rimmed glasses and a checked suit. “We were in an isolated place and I worked every day because there were no visitors. Visitors put me off, get in the way.”

All of the drawings were made on an iPad, which has become his preferred way to make art – much more than the photographs that used to be so central to his work.

“I’m really off photography now,” he said. “Everyone’s a photographer. Everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket, they can all take photographs. Photographs are very boring.”

He loves drawing on the iPad, freeing him up from the paraphernalia of regular painting.

“It’s a new technique,” he said. “I don’t think there’s many people doing it.”

The dazzling colours of the Normandy countryside are a perfect fit for Hockney, who made his name with sun-soaked scenes from California in the 1960s.

Though known for his jet-set lifestyle, sartorial elegance and large retinue of friends, he has always been an industrial worker and was delighted to have time to devote himself to nature, which has become his principal muse in recent years.

“They cancelled the Olympic Games, but you can’t cancel the Spring,” he said with a mischievous grin. “The first day we came to Normandy, we watched a marvellous sunset over the Seine estuary. We had the clarity of Van Gogh.”

He dismisses the idea that landscapes are no longer an interesting subject for art.

“Nature is the source of everything. When I went to Yorkshire 16 years ago, people said, ‘You can’t paint landscape today’. I said ‘That’s just because of the paintings – the landscape itself can’t be boring’.

“The depictions of it have become boring, that’s all. You’ve got to make them a bit different – and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

 

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