Three Paintings at the Underdog Gallery

Three of my paintings are hanging at the Underdog Gallery in London as part of their re-launch. The exhibition runs until the 25th of February, you can find out more here.

The Seventh Seal

The Seventh Seal was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film of the same name. The film recounts the story of a knight undergoing an existential crisis whilst he plays a game of chess against Death. If he loses, he dies. If he wins, he gets to live.

The painting incorporates visual references to the film and its themes. The composition and colours suggest a chess board. The horse represents the Knight, who opposes the pale-faced figure of death. These characters are surrounded by many symbols of time; both manmade and natural.

Bleak Twigs

Bleak Twigs draws influences from the TV Series True Detective, which is inspired by the Erlking from German folklore. The Erlking tale tells of a woodland spirit who ensnares unsuspecting passersby. The twigs growing out of the skull and perched birds represent the natural world’s indifference to human concerns. This lends the piece a Romantic attitude, in keeping with the themes of the original: the violence and power of nature, humans underestimating the environment, understanding how subtle forces can prevail over time.

Flowers of Orcus

The Flowers of Orcus was drawn from an imagistic poem by Ezra Pound.

Δώρια (Doria)
Be in me as the eternal moods
of the bleak wind, and not
As transient things are —
gaiety of flowers.
Have me in the strong loneliness
of sunless cliffs
And of grey waters.
Let the gods speak softly of us
In days hereafter,
The shadowy flowers of Orcus
Remember Thee.

The title Doria references the classical Greek Doric forms of music and architecture, which were renowned for their austerity. Orcus was a god of the underworld who likely originated from Etruscan religion. In Roman beliefs, he represents the vengeful aspect of Death. Orcus could also be used for as a name for the underworld in general, so the shadowy flowers are those that are found in the land of the dead.

In the painting, the stern and unflinching bone contrasts with lively flowers dancing around the skull. As in the poem, this juxtaposition of hardness and softness, stillness and movement, creates a sense of flux, whilst simultaneously referencing the circle of life.

︎ Check out this post on Medium to comment.


Submissions for the Threadneedle Prize in London

I recently submitted a set of three paintings to this year’s Threadneedle Prize in London which is a well known art competition in the UK. Each submission must be accompanied by a statement about the work. You can take a look at the three pieces I chose and read about their intended meaning below.

LullabyPale CarnageThe Garden of Live Flowers


Inspired by watching documentaries and TV series on crimes and cults, Lullaby is a conceptual response to the horrors that lie within the recesses of humanity. It also considers the juxtaposition of light and darkness that creates that familiarly unsettling feeling found in fairytales. It plays around with the themes of beauty and innocence, but has more sinister undertones with the suggestion of poison or suffocation being hinted at by the way that the foxgloves are placed angularly across the face. Aesthetic influences for this piece include Giorigio Di Chirico, who uses crumbling plaster casts as the focal point of his surreal dreamscapes, and the Pre-Raphaelites, who crowd their paintings with excessively bright flowers.

Pale Carnage

This piece is one of a series which explore the destructiveness of war and the fragility of individuals who are caught up in warfare. My gas mask pieces connote chemical warfare, the mask obscuring the face so that the individual in the painting becomes symbolic and represents all individuals caught in war. The gasmask, while not designed for ritual purposes, functions as a modern equivalent to traditional masks and elicits a strong response from modern audiences.

The wilted flowers are a poignant symbol of peace and beauty, they signify remembrance for those who lost their lives, though as they are drooping it suggests that as a society our respect for and memory of these individuals is fading over time. Also, in terms of shape and colour, the flowers hint towards the gas and explosions; the violence of war.

Pale Carnage is influenced by the themes and imagery explored by First World War poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. The title is more of an abstract poetic reference, from Ezra Pound’s April which he published two years before the outbreak of World War II:

Nympharum membra disjecta
(The limbs of nymphs lie scattered)

Three spirits came to me
And drew me apart
To where the olive boughs
Lay stripped upon the ground:
Pale carnage beneath bright mist.

Garden of Live Flowers

The title of this piece is taken from a chapter in ‘Alice in Wonderland’, where Alice visits a garden of flowers that speak to her and question her thoughts on the world. It plays around with dimension and scale, warped perspective. Looking at objects from a different angle allows us to push the boundaries of perception, in keeping with philosophical nature of the text. Thematically, the piece opens up a dialogue between humanity and the natural world, reiterating that humans are an integral part of nature and that we have an obligation to find harmony between ourselves and the natural environment.

Visually, I endeavoured to keep this piece as playful as possible, referencing the cartoon imagery of the Disney rendition and using toy figurines and model hands as placeholders for their human counterparts. Bright colours emerging from the darkness also signify the small aspects of the world that we understand, while the vast black mass signifies that which is hitherto unknown.

︎ Check out this post on Medium to comment.
© Kieran Ingram 2018