To take a liberty with Shakespeare, ‘Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious spring by this son of York’. The mercury is dropping and economic meltdown looms. But fear not. Spring will come early to the Royal Academy, in the form of David Hockney RA’s monumental Yorkshire landscape The Arrival of Spring. And what a glorious spring it is. This huge 32-canvas painting will cover the entire wall of the RA’s largest gallery and charts in infinite and expressive detail the magical rebirth of nature in the spring.
‘I wanted that floating feeling of early spring,’ says Hockney, ‘when the first leaves appear. They come out at the very bottom of the trees and you don’t see very much of the branches. They seem to float.’ This immersive work, that surrounds us with springtime, is David Hockney’s pastoral symphony, with every colour, every line sounding in rhythmic syncopation to his grand motif.
Like spring itself, David Hockney, now in his seventies, has an infinite capacity for renewal. His curiosity about the world before our eyes is so palpable that the motto of the late Steve Jobs – ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’ – seems meant for him as he treks through the countryside, drawing the landscape on his iPad to capture the fleeting effects of the Yorkshire weather. ‘The iPad is faster than watercolour, in which washes have to dry,’ writes Martin Gayford in his article introducing Hockney’s show.
‘And speed counts with open-air landscape art’. Hockney produced almost 100 iPad drawings recording the spring of 2011 in Woldgate, Bridlington, his Yorkshire home, and he is filling the gallery surrounding The Arrival of Spring with 51 specially produced prints of them.
From iPads to prehistoric stones, artists work in a wide range of media. The sculptor John Maine RA has been inspired
by fossils and the ancient Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey in his new work for the ‘Artists’ Laboratory’ show at the RA.
His exhibition is supported by the RA Friends. The Friends are the lifeblood of this institution and to express our appreciation of their valuable contribution to the RA, we are embarking upon the ambitious Keeper’s House development to transform facilities for Friends, described in our special supplement. Writers including the RA’s Charles Saumarez Smith and Sir Simon Jenkins describe how the new modern spaces will fit into the historic fabric of Burlington House.
Antony Gormley RA has brought a new approach to another historic space, the Hermitage in St Petersburg,
where he has rearranged the furniture, so to speak. In the nineteenth-century classical galleries, he has pulled the ancient statues off their plinths and down to eye level, so mere mortals can come face-to-face with ancient gods, while his own recent sculptures gaze across at them from an adjoining gallery.
Russia is fertile ground for art. Stirling Prize winner Zaha Hadid RA writes
about the influence of Russian avant-garde art and architecture on her own work and that of other architects. She sees Kazimir Malevich’s ‘discovery of abstraction’ as propelling ‘creative work to hitherto unheard of levels of invention… unfettered creativity could pour out across the blank canvas’.
Creative inspiration can come from inside and out, from a depth of looking and feeling. The abstract painter Paul Huxley RA writes
that his close friend, the landscape painter Adrian Berg RA (1929-2011), found it in watching the seasons change from his top-floor flat. In his moving tribute, Huxley says that he has not just lost his best friend, but his encyclopaedia too. In a way, every artist is an encyclopaedia, bursting with knowledge and imaginative insights into the world and our role in it. Instead of giving us answers, though, they prompt questions; instead of providing facts, they invite us to wonder and to open our eyes to what Hockney calls, quoting Van Gogh, ‘the infinity of nature’.