Friday, April 24, 2009

The Cutting

oil on canvas 41x51cm

This is a view I saw from the bridge at Braid Avenue. The isolated lookout was looking east along the track while the rest of his maintenance gang was working the rails to the west. The whole scene seemed about exposure to danger.

I have tried to increase the unsettled feeling by narrowing the cutting, emphasising the unstable ‘V’ at the centre of the composition, and making the trees loom over the empty track. Most of the shadows are deepened using transparent glazes.

This is quite a potent picture in which to explore levels of meaning. On the face of it, it’s just a bloke beside a railway line with some trees. There may or may not be a train due. Now, are the trees as stable as they should be? Could he be more in danger from them than the oncoming (or not) train? Let's go deeper, are the trees, the whole landscape, animate? Do they know something he doesn’t? Shouldn’t he leave? If we look closer, we could see one of the trees as looking a bit human. If we are familiar with the story of Daphne, we could read this little shriek of a tree as the nymph metamorphosed. But here she is abandoned and alone, and Arcadia has become cold and harsh. This is not how Paradise should be. What has our hero in the hard hat stumbled upon? Could this be a metaphor for our own times? For the Human Condition is General? You can take it as far as you can support it.

It not all Doom and Gloom though. I learnt a lot about paint handling, though the drawing could probably be bit better, and working within a very narrow tonal range. As it happens, over the time I was doing this I became reacquainted with Frank Zappa’s ‘One Size Fits All’, and couldn’t paint for a while for giggling after hearing Evelyn, the modified dog, ‘as she viewed the quivering fringe of a special doily’.

(‘Arf’, she said.)

Though you really had to be there.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Keith - just wanted to say The Cutting is wonderful - and I know the spot well. I get both a sense of menace and hope from this painting. Hope appears on the horizon with more light and less tension. Hope the exhibition goes well, and I will travel across to have a look.

    best wishes