After a great deal of internal debate about what I should write about for the latest instalment of me talking to myself/shouting into the void, I settled on discussing the different series of works I have created. First up – The Middle Kingdom.
These paintings are all pieces inspired by the sights and history of China, where I am currently based. The starting point in some cases could be something directly from the landscape, be it natural or man-made, as in these two images.
The image on the left, “Across the Shoulders of the Dead”, came about after a visit to the Great Wall and deals directly with what it looked like (the graffiti scratched into the surface was taken directly from marks in a part of the wall. I went in winter, so the colour scheme reflects that more than the actual colours, as well as links to the stories of how many died to build the wall (I tend to think about the pyramids in much the same way – they are giant memorials for all those who died in the construction as well as towering achievements of human construction). The image on the right, “Early Autumn Mist”, is a more abstracted impression of early morning mist in my compound during my first autumn in China. I’d just come from a two-year stint in the Middle East, so the sheer amount of plant life and greenery struck me quite intensely.
I find China to be particularly evocative considering my thematic concerns and interests, with a wealth of history reflecting the wider rise and fall of civilizations. The three paintings above are examples of some dealing with this cycle – from left to right we start with early optimism leading to peaks leading to collapse and decay before cycling back to the beginning. As I am rather cynical, even the peaks and early idealism contain, in some ways, hints of later collapse. Other pieces, like those that follow, deal with the modern world, be it the noise and speed of the big cities, or the way people tend to be eaten by the machines we call the free market and history.
Other pieces have Chinese alchemy as an additional source of inspiration beyond the rise and fall of civilizations and dynasties, such as the images below:
The series functions, in a sense, as elements of a fragmented narrative, in which the pieces can be viewed in isolation or as pieces of a fractured whole. There is no linear progression through the images as such, no straightforward story being told, rather I am trying to evoke a sense of cyclical time, the constant rise and aspirations of humanity, as well as the inevitable fall and cynical decline: the ebb and flow of history through human traces and artefacts.