Anyone who has tried to photograph a sunrise—or paint it, or film it—can tell you its fleeting energy is not easily captured. But David Hockney, whose animation of a sunrise iPad drawing is being broadcast on screens in New York’s Times Square, London’s Piccadilly Circus, and Seoul’s SMTown Coex throughout the month of May, manages it beautifully.
The British artist isn’t new to iPad drawing. He’s been doing it since 2009, when he realized, he said at the time, that it allowed him to never “have to get out of bed.” In 2018, Hockney used his iPad to design a new stained-glass window for Westminster Abbey, commemorating the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
The sunrise animation came about after his technical assistant, Jonathan Wilkinson, animated an iPad painting Hockney had made of the rain. “I thought it was very good,” Hockney says, “so then I suggested we could do a sunrise.” Not only is the rising sun a source of inspiration for the artist—“I always get up early in the spring and summer because I love the morning light; it just gets brighter and brighter,” he says—it’s also a symbol of hope and optimism as we start to see the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.
The animation is projected at 8:21 P.M. local time in London and Seoul and 11:57 P.M. local time in New York, and streamed by Circa, the digital-art platform that commissioned the work. Coinciding with Hockney’s new book, Spring Cannot Be Canceled, co-authored with Martin Gayford,and his show at London’s Royal Academy, “The Arrival of Spring: Normandy, 2020,” opening May 15, the sunrise animation is titled Remember, You Cannot Look at the Sun or Death for Very Long … A brief peek is preferred, which is exactly what Hockney’s animation, at just over a minute long, offers. —Julia Vitale