Flames in a Setting Sun II, ©John O’Grady
12″ x 12″ x 1.75″ Oil on deep edged canvas, does not require framing


I often speak about memory and how a triggered emotion helps progress a painting. Often the driver is colour, how a mark or a tone responds to another one applied next to it. Does it sing? Does it sink? A colour arrangement can help trigger a memory and create the mood and atmosphere of a painting.

When making this piece, it was firstly about using a beautiful burnt orange. I spent the next few days trying in vain to find an arrangement of colours that could work with it. The resulting pale violet, pink, deep blue and umbers brought out the subject matter by itself, reminding me of times when I had seen gorse fires burning.

Across many parts of Ireland, fires are set to clear the land of gorse covering hillsides. The tinder-like bushes spread the fire; plumes of smoke are sent skyward and hang in a veil above the earth. In this instance, the setting sun glows with an eerie pale yellow, its rays numbed by the smoke.

From the land, the deep orange glow of the burning bushes illuminates the smog hanging in the evening air.

Just like the seasons, themes in the paintings I make follow a cycle and reoccur. Purely by coincidence, I painted the first ‘Flames in a Setting Sun’ just over a year ago.

Even though the subject matter is the same, the mood and execution are different. The first one is brighter with a closer view whilst today’s painting uses colour more subtly and with a more diffuse, smoke-filled feel.

I’d love to hear what you think.