David Hockney has sent a love letter to Yorkshire with a new exhibition of his vividly colourful iPad paintings of the Wolds, writes JIM GREENHALF.

DAVID HOCKNEY may have left the East Coast of Yorkshire for the West Coast of the United States, but he has delivered a love letter back to his home county in the shape of 33 landscapes.

The seven or eight years he lived in the big house on Kingston Road, Bridlington, and worked intensively in the nearly Wolds with brush, paint and charcoal resulted in scores of drawings and vividly painted landscapes which, according to the Bradford-born artist’s friendly critics, revived the art of British landscape painting.

They certainly gave the artist, who was 70 when he started, a new lease of life. So much so that he took out a ten-year lease on a vast warehouse a short drive away from his home which he used as a studio.

But following the death of his assistant, 23-year-old Dominic Elliott, at the house in March 2013, Hockney returned to his home/studio in the Hollywood Hills above Los Angeles where he has been painting from dawn to dusk.

His wintry absence from Yorkshire may have left a feeling of discontent among admirers of epic efforts such as Bigger Trees Near Warter; but Hockney has made spring come early for them in the shape of his latest exhibition at Salts Mill, Bradford, entitled The Arrival of Spring.

The five-foot high framed pictures were drawn on ever-inventive Hockney’s iPad between January 1 and May 31, 2011 and convey something of his energy and joy of that period, leading up to his Bigger Picture exhibition which filled all 12 rooms of London’s Royal Academy in 2012.

These 33 pictures, to be joined by 16 others in April or May this year, each depict a specific day between those five months. Hockney regards the pictures as part of a single work.

Of this seasonal transition Hockney said: "Winter is not black and white; when the snow is there it can be, but it doesn't stay long. Even on dull days there is a lot of colour if you really look."

Shadows on snow fall in tones of mauve and lilac. There is no uniform greenery. The leaves of trees, shrubs and grasses are variegated in both shape and colour. The miracle is the way Hockney is able to convey what he sees and feels into pictures which, from a distance, look as though they have been conventionally painted.

Hockney maintains that throughout history painters have always used the latest technology available to develop their work. He is no different.

The man who in the mid-1970s gave the world joiner-photographs first started sketching little landscapes and domestic interiors on his iPad five years or six years ago, dispatching them to friends and family around the world.

Gradually he fell in love with the technique. Of the medium he said: "Turner would have loved it. You can be very, very subtle with transparent layers. The light changes quickly in East Yorkshire, so you have to choose how you want to depict it.

"I realised how fast I can capture it with the iPad, a lot faster than watercolour for example. Simply faster. You can choose a new colour or a new brush more rapidly. You don't have to wait for anything to dry."

These pictures, on display for the first time in the north, celebrate fleeting moments of intense beauty, and remind us of the importance of – and the joy we can get from – looking very closely at what we see.


Picture: Lesley Mitchell and Jim Greenhalf

Salts Mill director Robin Silver said: "The display will change when the other 16 pictures arrive in two or three months, but it will be part of the permanent collection of David's work in Salts Mill."

Salts Mill bought the 49 pictures for an undisclosed sum. Another undisclosed sum was spent converting part of the third floor at the mill into a spacious gallery of grey and white. Some interior gallery walls were removed, others were constructed, new lighting was installed. Quotes by the artist adorn two white walls.

While the seasons change in the pictures inside the gallery, the north-facing windows show the slow movement of winter into early spring on the rising background of the hill beyond. The transition outside complements the vividly coloured one going on in the pictures elegantly arrayed around the walls inside.

You can see what Hockney meant when he said that the mill’s founder, Titus Salt, must have been an artist, ensuring that the windows of his mill framed the world outside, connecting the inside with the outside.


David Hockney

"The important thing is that people can come in and look at the pictures for nothing. They can spend as much or as little time as they like looking at them. That's how art should be seen," Robin Silver added.

"Each picture is a lesson in looking and a lesson in joy. It is the arrival of spring and you're in it."

The entire 15,000 square feet of the third floor in the south-facing block of the mill, where the spinning of yarn used to take place, is now occupied by a cafe/diner, the Hockney exhibition, and next door to that a new exhibition of the history of the mill.

Salts was built between 1850 and 1853 to designs by Henry Lockwood and Richard Mawson, the architects who designed Bradford’s City Hall, St George's Hall and the Wool Exchange.

If The Arrival of Spring shows us the present, People And Process: A History of Salts Mill, reveals something of the 133-history of the mill as a state-of-the-art textile manufacturing enterprise.

Admission to both exhibitions is free. They are open Wednesday to Sunday, from 10am to 4.30pm.