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Braving The Brexit

It may be said that the timing of the two exhibitions is excellent!
Britain is going through a turbulent period. The final voting was scheduled to take place on March 29, but it has been postponed. It is still not clear whether Britain will be able to leave the European Union (EU). T S Eliot had said: “April is the cruellest month…” Now, the Britons are waiting to see whether the poet’s prediction is applicable in politics, too!
In such a time, an exhibition of works by English painter David Hockney has begun at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The 82-year-old Hockney became the most valuable living artist ever in 2018, as his ‘Portrait of an Artist’ realised USD 90.3 million on November 15 at Christie’s Auction!

David Hockney’s ‘The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire

At a time when Hockney is paying a rich tribute to Van Gogh (March 30, 1853-July 29, 1890) through his works in Amsterdam, another exhibition of paintings – titled ‘Van Gogh and Britain’ – began at the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London on March 27. The forty-five works would help the visitors understand the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter’s lifestyle and his impact on British art forms. Whatever may have happened, and still happening in the world of politics, these two events make it clear that there is no place for Brexit in the world of art and culture!
Spring has arrived in Amsterdam, as the famous Tulip flowers have bloomed all over the fields in the Netherlands. Perhaps, this is the perfect environment for Hockney’s bright colours and Van Gogh’s eternal expressionism to mix with one another! The Dutch are not at all worried about Brexit. Van Gogh, himself, loved the spring. Once, he said that he wanted to visit a country where spring would stay forever. He had also expressed fear that in that case, there would be no snowfall, no apple and no corn in the fields! The painter’s ‘Sunflowers mind’ was in trouble, as he was facing difficulties in choosing one of the two: winter and spring. Before committing suicide at the age of 37 in France in 1890, Van Gogh would create a cornfield on the canvas.

David Hockney painting ‘May Blossom on the Roman Road‘ in 2009

Van Gogh’s fan Hockney, too, has created a cornfield on the canvas. He returned to his Yorkshire residence in 2000, after spending so many years in the US. He enjoyed the spring a lot in Yorkshire. Once, Hockney said: “Everyone loves spring. Spring informs us that the winter is over and green will return soon.” This thought has inspired him to create a huge painting ‘Arrival of Spring in Woldgate’. It is basically an iPad drawing in colours, printed on four sheets of paper, mounted onto four aluminium panels, and signed and dated in black felt-tip pen.
Hockney created the series about 13 years ago (from March to November 2006), as he tried to show the seasonal change in East Yorkshire. He made an excellent attempt to portray the autumn’s emptiness, as well as the beauty of spring. Art lovers can compare Hockney’s ‘Arrival of Spring’ with Van Gogh’s ‘Undergrowth’ (1889). The wonderful landscapes have certainly made Hockney an ideal successor of the Dutch Great.

David Hockney

Here lies the beauty of art. The Amsterdam exhibition is not a retrospective of Hockney, but a comparison of creations by a 19th century painter, and a modern painter. The event is showcasing 60 works of the English painter and eight works of the Dutch painter. Brexit might have triggered a controversy in Europe, but the exhibition proofs that art has no barriers in the continent.
Colours are still bright! It seems that the similarity between the two artists lies in the use of contrasting colours! Both of them did not hesitate to use bold and contrasting colours – purples and blues set against mustard yellows. Hockney has claimed that the main link between him and Van Gogh is not colour, brushwork or subject matter, but their obsessive fascination with nature. “It’s clarity of space, I think. Van Gogh could see space very, very clearly,” he stressed.

Art-lovers are well aware of the fact that Van Gogh was a versatile painter. He had experimented with different forms, such as Naturalism, Impressionism, Post-impressionism. Hockney, too, uses different tools, from canvas to iPad! The English painter is not ready to compare himself with Van Gogh, the Great. “He put some beans on his fire when he went out in the morning, and he painted all day – eight hours, nine hours – then he’d come home and eat the beans. People have always been very attracted to Van Gogh’s paintings. Since they were first shown in 1906, people have flocked to them. He’s a great artist, still. It’s contemporary; if it’s speaking to you now, it’s contemporary,” Hockney said of Van Gogh.
The works of art, the artists, as well as the art-lovers, keep Britain very much in Europe!

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