16″ x 16″ x 1.75″ acrylic on canvas, ready to hang
‘May you live in interesting times’, so the saying goes.
It can be seen as more of a statement on the difficult times people live through than a time to cherish.
However it’s read, there is no doubt humanity faces one of its toughest challenges.
The existential threat of climate change is before us. It’s our generation that must and can act.
It’s not all doom and gloom though.
Hope is to be seen all around us.
Over the last weeks, thousands of young people have demonstrated in cities and towns all over Europe, and perhaps across the world too, to voice their concerns and encourage us to sit up and notice.
They are leading the way and will be heard where many politicians have constantly ignored the threat.
Have you heard them?
I certainly have. This painting is inspired by their movement.
I wanted to paint something awe inspiring, as achingly beautiful as I could make it, something that showed how wonderful our planet is, despite what we are doing to it.
It might not be a big surprise to see that I chose to look upwards to my old friends the clouds. Except now, we are in the sky. Not anchored by the land but communing with the aerial.
Enormous cumulus clouds rise and fall, turn and twist in a wonderful balletic display, glowing with colour and light.
The solid appearance of a cloud that’s really nebulous and ephemeral can be perceived as a metaphor for humanity that’s teetering on the very edge.
This is the first in the series of Icarus sky paintings. Can you see why I chose that title?
I’d love to hear what you think.
John, John, John…this is magnificent!! Indeed, hope is all around and it is so easy NOT to look up! But can we really fly “too close” to that which is above? Thank you for the inspirational theme!
Thanks very much for your comment. I do take your point on ‘can we really fly too close’ bearing in mind it is Easter Sunday! it’s good to hear that you found the theme inspirational, just as I was inspired by these wonderful young people
This is glorious, John, I’m always struck but the depth and emotionality you can evoke with a relatively limited palette. The clouds are both fragile and awe-inspiring in their shifting, vaporous forms and grandeur. The light is (literally) heavenly, in profound contrast with the darkest blues, which carry the eye right through the atmosphere of our tiny Earth and out toward the farthest reaches of space. So our place in the cosmos feels both grand in the immediate sense and so small in the eternal. And the startling presence of that little object speeding across the heavens makes me feel a bit giddy, as well as curious and a bit fearful for what will become of it. It animates the painting in a sharp and surprising way. Where is it going? Where are we going?
Yes the little object, ‘where is it going? where are we going’? very apposite questions. Your comment reminded me of the Gauguin painting ‘Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going’? I agree with you Jo the plane does animate the painting, it was only placed it into vast sky of Turquoise blue at the last minute, having spent ages trying to find the best compositional arrangement for it. I think it worked out well. I like how you picked up on the grand scale in the painting and yet so small in the eternal, how wonderful. Thank you
Thank you for your reply, John. As I look again (and again) I am struck by the lovely violet greys in the clouds. What a subtle and masterful use of red.
“Plane” is the logical interpretation, but something about the heightened emotional tone of the image made me see that object as potentially unidentified, unknown, perhaps with its own consciousness, speeding its way heedless across the sky, in a kind of rapture, to who knows where. It created a magical moment for me.
Jo I think your reading of the object, carries much more interest and emotional weight than a plane. I hope I didn’t take any of the magic away from what you’re seeing and feeling. Thank you for your comment on the violet greys in the clouds, they do work.
Hello John, this is off the subject I know but I thought I would share a coincidence. I have just been watching a fascinating documentary about Rembrandt and I reached the part where he experienced the indignity of walking into Amsterdam City Hall to declare himself bankrupt; above the door in bas relief was a warning to representation of Icarus falling from the sky as he flew ‘too close to the sun’. Humanity’s hubris and risk-taking has brought us to the point of ‘teetering on the edge’ with our waxen wings melting as the earth’s temperature rises. Your painting is beautiful and puts us in our place amidst the majesty of the clouds and their delicate diaphanous nature is a reminder of their fragility.
Hello Chris, well now isn’t that a wonderful coincidence and your reading in connection to my painting is just perfect. As you mention the hubris and devil may care attitude has brought us and other creatures to this point. Poor soul Rembrandt had a hard time of it as did Vermeer I believe. For a mercantile nation, their artists certainly suffered in business.