“I’m 83, I’m going to die …”

This Thursday morning April 16, at 9 am sharp, the Théâtre du Châtelet and France Inter, broadcast live on public radio as well as on their social networks, an unpublished letter and work by the English painter David Hockney, created during the confinement that the whole world is experiencing.

In this uncertain period for the world of live performance, the Théâtre du Châtelet has developed #TchatExtra, a daily digital offer which allows the general public to dialogue and exchange with its associated artists, in the form of a Flames. As such, the British painter David Hockney answered the call of the theater and offered to share unpublished works and a letter. It is in “Letters of Interior”, on France Inter, that Augustin Trapenard read live this morning the friendly letter addressed by David Hockney to Ruth Mackenzie, artistic director of Châtelet Theater.

David Hockney had already made a similar gesture to his compatriots, the same day of spring, March 21. A bouquet of daffodils that springs from the greenest ground. Already a table on iPad and a “positive message»That the great English painter, 83 years old on July 9 and a serious smoker, already confined to his house in Normandy, had sent over the wire, via The Art Newspaper . Its title, in these times of epidemic and confinement, was eloquent: “Do remember they can’t cancel the spring “ (“Remember they can’t cancel spring“).

David Hockney, “Do remember they can’t cancel the Spring” 2020. iPad drawing © David Hockney © David Hockney

This time, it was a real letter, both personal and deeply optimistic, that the British artist agreed to share, via his friend and compatriot Ruth Mackenzie, with his host country, France.

Dear Ruth,

We are currently in Normandy, where we stayed for the first time last year. I always had in mind to organize myself to live here the arrival of spring. I’m confined with Jean-Pierre and Jonathan, and so far so good for us. .I draw on my iPad, a medium faster than painting. I’ve used it 10 years ago in East Yorkshire when this tablet went out. Before that, I used an app on my iPhone, Brushes, which I found to be of excellent quality. But the alleged improvements made in 2015 made it too sophisticated, and therefore simply unusable! Since then, a mathematician from Leeds, England, has developed a custom one for me, more practical and thanks to which I can paint quite quickly. For a designer, speed is key, even if some drawings can take me four to five hours of work.

As soon as we discovered Normandy, we fell in love with it, and I wanted to paint and draw the arrival of spring here. There are pear, apple, cherry and plum trees in bloom. And also hawthorns and sloes. In East Yorkshire we only had hawthorns and sloes. We came across this large garden house – cheaper than anything we could have found in Sussex – as a long-awaited and hoped-for encounter.

I immediately started drawing in a Japanese notebook everything around our house, then the house itself. These creations were exhibited in New York in September 2019. But being a smoker, I have no attraction for New York and have never set foot there.

David Hockney, “No. 125 »19th March 2020. iPad drawing © David Hockney © David Hockney

We came back to Normandy on March 2, and I started to draw these scrawny trees on my iPad. I’m here right now, with Jonathan and Jean-Pierre. Since the virus struck, we have been confined. It does not affect me much, but Jean-Pierre (Gonçalves de Lima, his right arm, Editor’s note) and Jonathan, whose family is in Harrogate, are more affected.

Like it or not, we’re here for a while. I continued to draw these trees, from which now sprout a little more buds and flowers every day. This is where we are today.

I keep sharing these drawings with my friends, who are all delighted, and it makes me happy. Meanwhile, the virus, which has gone mad and uncontrollable, spreads. Many tell me that these drawings offer them a respite from this ordeal.

Why are my designs felt like a respite from this whirlwind of scary news? They bear witness to the cycle of life which begins again here with the beginning of spring. I will endeavor to continue this work now that I have appreciated its importance. My life is fine with me, I have something to do: paint.

Like idiots, we have lost our connection to nature even though we are fully part of it. It will all end one day. So what lessons can we learn from it? I’m 83, I’m going to die. We die because we are born. The only things that matter in life are food and love, in that order, and also our little dog Ruby. I sincerely believe in it, and for me, the source of art is in love. I love life.

Best regards, David Hockney

David Hockney, “No. 133 »22nd March 2020, iPad drawing © David Hockney © David Hockney

Ruth Mackenzie has been close to David Hockney since her mission as director of the London 2012 Festival, the official cultural program for the London 2012 Olympic Games for which she was named CBE (Order of the British Empire). Confined in London to her mother, she tells, exclusively for Le Figaro, how was born this long-term collaboration.

As I was in London, I saw the images he entrusted to The Art Newspaper. I wrote to him, knowing him in Normandy. I told him that confinement was much harder in France than in England and that it would be a real beautiful idea to address all Parisians, all French people deprived of nature. We did the same for the 2012 Olympics. David Hockney gave us a work – a view from his window, behind a cup of blue tea, with the profile of a tree in winter under the snow – to support this program exceptional cultural. Bouquet and first major event of this festival, “David Hockney: A Bigger Picture”, his incredible exhibition in early 2012 at the Royal Academy of Arts of London with its landscapes, trees, huge paintings painted in the woods and hills of East Yorkshire. I loved it. So this is the second time I have asked for it. It’s a little sassy, ​​but for a good cause!

David Hockney is an extraordinary personality. He is extremely intelligent and of great humanity. He’s also completely natural, behaves like any other man on the street. He has no pretensions, he says what he thinks, as he thinks. He showed me how the Brushes app on the iPad worked, how he looked at a tree and painted directly, his eyes fixed on the tree, without looking at his iPad before pressing the Replay button and seeing the succession of brush strokes appear by magic. For both of us, it was a miracle! We were struck by what we saw, like two petrified children in the Royal Academy’s main courtyard. Artists have this ability to create this joy. While the whole process of the London 2012 Festival has been difficult, everything with David has been joyful.

Is he very English? He comes from West Yorkshire, from the city of Bradford, an industrial city, devastated and marked by unemployment. Her brother was mayor of Bradford. He has a very English humor. He is really funny. But he is also an intellectual, which is frowned upon in England. “Arty” in England is often an insult, as the expression “arty farty” means pretentious, poseur, without wisdom, without pragmatism, without practical spirit, with a homophobic connotation. David is not afraid of being an artist, cares deeply about art, what is going on and the challenges of nature. This COVID-19 crisis involves changing everything in the world. So this is his moment

David Hockney, “No. 144 »28th March 2020, iPad drawing © David Hockney © David Hockney


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