Sunday, May 14, 2017

Painting Thoughts: The Resurrection Of Napoleon Bonaparte

My paintings are often quite complex to understand and I find that they really come alive with some explanation, so I've begun to create some videos about them. I thought I'd share my latest one and a few written words too.

Here is Te Resurrection of Napoleon Bonaparte, an oil on canvas work from 2016. The spark of the idea came from last 2015, when someone came into the Macc Art Lounge, a pop-up shop in Macclesfield where I had some work on show. They were looking for paintings of The White Nancy, a local monument, and a popular subject for artists, so I volunteered to paint it. The idea captured my imagination, and I looked up the history of the odd shaped building.

It turned out to be a Napoleonic monument, and I found it irresistible to include Napoleon in the sky, charging heroically away to a glorious horizon. The image was so strong that I was determined to include him, yet made of sky, a ghost, an ever presence. The monument on a high hill was such a perfect position for the charging once-emperor. It's almost as though the famous David painting, which I knew well, was made for Bollington.

Much of my art is about art or references other artworks. In the way the music builds upon predecessors, so does visual art, and each painting now, in this so-called "post modern" era, needs these vital guides more than ever. I think "post modern" is a somewhat bold academic name for this current epoch. It implies that visual art has all been discovered, and now we must merely mop-up the visual pieces and explore and reformulate existing discoveries, rather than discover new things - when of course there are vast numbers of undiscovered art genres and classifications out there - when the well-tempered chromatic scale was documented in music by Bach, did he consider music complete?!

However, onward to the painting!

Some technical bits not mentioned in the video. It's oil on canvas in two layers and uses a walnut oil in amber medium for glazing, which gives it an amazing visual quality in real life. Interestingly, David didn't have access, or not much access, to Napoleon, who didn't see the point of realism in art and didn't consider a likeness important at all. So even in David's work (one of the five his studio completed) has only approximate stabs at a likeness, each different.

When I conceived this, a glorious dawn was coming, not a storm. Who knows which was true? I'd like to think the former. Artists might reference the past and its artistic history, connecting with a rich seam of cultural metaphor rooted in nature, yet art should document the present. These are strange times for humanity, but I think, great ones of peace and prosperity, beyond the fearful dawn. In such times artists, not warriors, must become the heroes.

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