At 90.75 metres long it’s David Hockney’s biggest ever picture: a vibrant, joyful frieze recording the changing seasons in and around a French garden over the course of a most noteworthy year. This is the first time this vast work has been seen in the UK.
A Year in Normandie joins together some of the 220 iPad works Hockney created throughout 2020 using a specially adapted version of his favoured app, printed onto paper, and shown in a continuous run.
Pinned to a specially built wall in the huge, rarely-opened timber-beamed attic space of Salts Mill in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire, A Year in Normandie creates an immersive sense of being in nature. Viewing the work – walking the 90 metres, turning and returning to particular details, almost hearing the brook or catching the breeze in the trees – we join the artist in close contemplation of his favourite new corner of planet earth.
There are many signs of human activity: a chair here, a car there, the 17th century house recurs, anchoring us. But there are no human figures. The work is both an exploration of time and space and a celebration of the constantly changing beauty of the natural world. In scale, in content, in beauty, it causes us to pause.
Hockney’s frieze was almost 4 decades in the making. The artist traces its genesis back to when he first laid eyes upon a Chinese scroll painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1983. It was, Hockney recalls, “about 30 metres long and was displayed for me in a private room. It was one of the most exciting days of my life.” Since spending time in France in 2019, the artist has been considering the extraordinary Bayeux Tapestry. The 11th century embroidered depiction of the Norman conquest of England is 68.3 metres wide and covers 2 ½ years of time. Of his work, Hockney comments “the viewer… will walk past it like the Bayeux tapestry, and I hope they will experience in one picture the year in Normandy.”
In an adjoining room is Hockney’s video piece Remember You Cannot Look at the Sun or Death for Very Long, 26th April 2020. An iPad painting with animation, this beautiful sunrise captures the artist’s philosophy of loving life.
Open Weds-Sun, 11am – 4pm, until September 18 . Admission free. See saltsmill.org.uk for details.