I Dreamt of White Horses III, © John O’Grady
18″ x 13″ x 0.75″ oil on canvas ready to hang
“There is a distant isle,
Around which sea-horses glisten:
A fair course against the white-swelling surge—
Four pedestals uphold it.”
Extract of ‘The Isles of the Happy’ by anonymous – from a selection of ancient Irish poetry in the Myth and Saga section
I wanted the powerful charge of energy you can feel when standing on the shore of the Atlantic ocean to be expressed in this painting.
The low perspective and seeing the rush of water coming towards us, wave upon wave upon wave combine to give a vertiginous feel even though our eye is guided by the inviting distant island’s lights.
This feeling of energy is created by the duality between the ‘white horses’ galloping towards us while our eye surfs the top of the waves towards the island.
Beyond the waves and the island, a warm band of purple and blue clouds drift by from left to right. Their shapes and colours bring about some respite and balance that’s disrupted by two voluminous cumuli moving slowly towards land.
I read somewhere that a lot of painters are drawn towards painting the sea because paint can replicate the qualities of water, its transparency and opaqueness, the way filtered light passes through it and give it luminosity.
I was thinking about that while making this piece, layering textured paint to simulate the agitated sea and foam rushing onward towards land and here and there, adding passages of glazed transparent azure and teal to capture that fugitive quality of light as the waves roll in…
The island is the centre of this painting, the refuge to reach while our eyes trawl through the icy cold turquoise water.
What is your feeling about the painting? I’d love to hear.
I love the energy and movement in this painting. It drew me in and I can almost feel the spray on my face, very evocative of the wild Atlantic coast.
Glad to hear you felt that sea spray on your face, capturing a little bit of that energy. Thank you for your comment.
This is full of the power and energy of the sea which feels joyful and exuberant as the waves crash and foam surges upwards. However, the low perspective also evokes a sense of the threatening power of the sea and the possibility of becoming engulfed and overwhelmed by it. The crashing and splashing of the waves contrasts with the steadying effect of the colours on the horizon which anchor the island. I notice too the pin pricks of light whch to me suggest human life and the stability of a safe harbour but may depict light shining through trees; either way it denotes the appeal of shelter and security.
Thank you for your comment and thoughts on the painting. Your mention of ‘the stability of a safe harbour’ does echo my own thoughts, a refuge set amongst the wild surf, very much as the stanza from the poem describes all those centuries ago.