Friday, 25 February 2011

Terminal Five Expo Gallery

It seems obvious, once you've seen it, that a gallery of original art in an airport terminal is a good idea, especially when the work is by artists from the country where the airport is sited. My work is now on display in the Terminal Five Expo Gallery at Heathrow Airport, as part of an exhibition called "Legacy". It's a lovely space and, because it is at the quieter end of the terminal, is amazingly peaceful.

With check-in having to take place at least two hours before a flight, people have a lot of time on their hands. They are drawn into the gallery to see something they normally would not encounter at an airport. Once inside, visitors say that it is like being in an oasis where you can forget you are in a terminal.

I've met some delightful people from all walks of life in the time I've spent in the gallery. Airport staff often drop by for a chat when the terminal is quiet. Travelers seem to love to discuss all the work. There are sculptures by Susan Leyland, Lorne McKeen and Mike Speller, and paintings by Jeremy Houghton and others, as well as yours truly. The guest book speaks of how delighted and surprised passengers are with the concept, and it is a lovely experience to be involved with something that obviously brings such happiness to so many people.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Robert Bateman

When we look at a realist painting we tend to think that we are looking at the items within it — a face, a chair, a street scene, etc. But what pulls us into the painting to start with has nothing to do with detail and how well it is painted, it has to do with overall design. Take the wildlife paintings of Robert Batemen. He paints animals exquisitely, no doubt about it, and his scenes are rendered in perfect detail. What elevates him above the many other artists who are superb draughtsmen is his great design skills. His paintings are almost abstractions and come to life and engage us because of their daring arrangement of space on the canvas.

Classic Bateman sees the main object of his work set off to one side of the canvas. There is dramatic use of very low or high horizons and huge areas of white space. Animals are viewed from unexpected angles and often seem to disappear into the background, just as they would in nature, so that we must go searching for them and then enjoy the act of discovery. His paintings are first and foremost about shapes and design and because they jolt us with their daring arrangement of blocks of colour upon the canvas, we can then become aware of the detail and of the skill that lies behind it.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Creating Harmony

Most of us are visual creatures, even if we don't realize it, and we have an innate tendency to seek out patterns in our surroundings. After all, if you were living in the savannah of Africa as our ancestors were, your survival could depend upon whether or not you recognized that all the prey animals were avoiding a particular stand of trees because a leopard had just moved in there.

We also have a tendency to be attracted to visual harmony and it can make a painting attractive to a viewer, even when there are faults in the execution. There are many factors to be considered when setting up the composition of a picture. One way to create harmony in a painting is to repeat the same lines of direction throughout a composition. If directional lines, such as the edges of objects and areas of contrast between light and dark, run parallel to one another, then it will give a far more harmonious feel than if those same lines point in many different and random directions.

In the painting shown here, most of the parallel lines of direction point from the top right to middle bottom left of the image. The line is repeated many times throughout the composition, creating a repeating pattern that gives a feeling of harminy. I have found that the slope of a line relative to the horizontal or perpendicular affects the message being sent by the composition. This is a portrait of love and contentment, so the lines are nearer to straight up and down, where a diagonal drawn from corner to corner would imply more energy.

You're not usually going to have all lines pointing in the same direction, because then there is nothing to hold the viewer's eye within the composition. To pull the viewer back into the picture, I chose lines running from top left to bottom right. They form a gentle angle to the first set of lines and do two things:

1. the angle of intersecting lines creates tension. The greatest tension is when lines are at right angles to one another. In this painting the lines intersect at a wide angle, giving the feeling of harmony.
2. the intersection of some of the lines create cups in which important features of the painting can rest. In this case it is the chin of the woman and then her elbow, which is not present in the picture but would be a natural projection of the two lines following the outside of her arm.