After a recent flood damaged a number of drawings and paintings, I felt compelled to take stock of some 45 years of art and rework some old images. This painting from 1995, called A true Paladin, was inspired by a dream where the knight, Gawain, stands on a balcony over a city square on which corpses lie bleeding. I was struck by the painterly quality of the blood-soaked earth.
It’s hard to say what grabs us about certain images. Maybe it was the stark melodrama of the scene framed by an ornate, wrought iron balustrade. Perhaps it was the reflections. Or maybe it was the ambiguous space generated by the open window and fons perenis (eternal fountain) rendered in stained glass. The city square is a Temenos, an enclosed space where the dark figures of the unconscious are met and death looms in the shadows.
I divided the rectangle of canvas according to the Golden Mean, which is based on the number five. Gawain’s shield displays the pentagram. It is a mandala, a symbol of wholeness, of equity between parts, interlocked in an insoluble whole. All the Paladin’s thoughts, speech and actions are harmonious and abide by the Golden Mean. It is an ideal to which all knights must strive- in love, spirituality, ethics and life in general.
With a palette of raw umber, paynes grey, black, white and indian red, I lay down broad washes of rich tones to evoke the earth of the city square. In contrast with this, the flat plane of the window projects sharply into the foreground. It is both, at once, interior and exterior scene and this dichotomy reflects the mood of sad revery.
The next day sees the introduction of more vibrant color. The ground color is blue/green. It is the key color to which all other’s refer and I will return to this hue when the bewildering possibilities of color relationships get out of hand. It provides a bearing (true north, so to speak) in the navigation of the color wheel.
I will document this creation in a series of blog posts. May some aspiring artist find it useful.