In 2012, A Bigger Picture, David Hockney’s vision of the undemonstrative landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds near his Bridlington home, drew record crowds to the Royal Academy. His pictures of lanes and hedgerows, field edges and woods were large — bordering huge — and infused with colour. His latest show is an altogether quieter affair. The Arrival of Spring shows five sets of charcoal drawings, each suite capturing a single spot near Woldgate as the season changes and bare branches and stark light grow to full leaf and deep shade. Hockney had to force himself to wait until the changes in nature were significant enough to make each picture properly distinct. The drawings were made in the aftermath of a stroke which affected his speech but not his ability to draw.
Hockey’s draughtsmanship has always been his strongest suit and these 25 pictures show his facility at its fullest: within single frames he switches from the detailed and linear to the broad and the smudged. “The Chinese”, he says, “say black and white contains colour, and so it can.” Well almost, in that the pictures are so adroit that the eye here fills in the hues subliminally. It is a minimalism that also weans him off the acid shades he favours (and that are on shrill display in his iPad drawings in a second room). The charcoals are drawings that rely on observation and skill alone.
“Woldgate, 9 & 12 May”, 2013
“Woldgate, 8 May”, 2013
The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011