Monday, 22 July 2013

Gold And Blue

I love the Wilton Diptych - not quite as much as the Lippi Annunciation in the National Gallery but you go past one to get to the other.  It is the blue and gold combination that gets me I think.  I tried it on two pieces I did for our contemporary show 'Out of Line' at the Mall Galleries last week: part of the Armed Forces Art Society's double act (the regular show and Out of Line were on together).

I was inspired by the work of one of our finest poets, Pauline Stainer.  Here is the first piece, called The Wound-dresser's Dream in artificial light:  It contains small quotes from Keats and Pauline's poem with that title.

The Wound-dresser's Dream 
15x15 inches, oil and gold leaf.

It looks different in daylight:

My other piece is The Ice Pilot Speaks.  This time I added some acrylic image transfers, some from book illustrations, in the under-painting, then painted into them:

The Ice Pilot Speaks
15x15 inches, oil and gold leaf

I had to produce a statement about the pieces and here is an extract:

The starting point for The Wound-dresser’s Dream is the poet John Keats’ wish to become a naval surgeon.  In those days the Royal Navy was the principal explorer of the Polar Regions and I imagine that Pauline, with her deep knowledge of things at the edge of human experience, has chosen ‘arctic’ imagery for that reason.  As someone who has led exploring expeditions to the Arctic and indeed had the privilege of naming parts of it, I felt a great connection to this poem and a need to explore my own reaction to it.

The Ice-pilot Speaks also connected to me through its polar references.  Captain Bob Bartlett, who is taking a sun shot in my painting, was one of the most famous and accomplished ice-pilots of the Arctic region - alongside Parry, Sverdrup and Rasmussen.   On these men explorers like Nansen and Peary depended utterly for safe passage.  Those who have been to Ultima Thule and beyond will be familiar with the precarious balance between life and death in the Polar Regions that Pauline describes.  I wanted to capture something of that.  I also enjoyed incorporating some of the other ideas in this long poem – hence the Klimt-like reference to love-making, St Brendan sailing through the ‘O’ and other references.  

This week I have been trying to finish a portrait commission and I feel that I am beginning to get there.  It is of Michael El Kassir, a Lebanese gentleman who passed away a few years ago.  I have done my best with it from a small photograph but would much rather have had a 'sitter'!

Michael El Kassir
24x20 inches, oil on board
As at 22 Jul 13
I have now left it, framed, with Michael's son to see if the family can live with it.  Then I will finish it.

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