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John Everett Millais
John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851–1852
A specific source of inspiration for me is Millais' painting Ophelia, taken from Shakespeare's Hamlet. The painting depicts Ophelia after her descent into madness following the death of her father. This painting at the Tate Britain has a powerful presence it is both sickeningly beautiful and terrible, a juxtaposition that invites questions about what madness really looks like. Even these many years ago it was still something that was being glamourised. To be able to make a terrible death look so visually alluring and romanticised is thought provoking. My interest in poetry as being a prompt for paintings stemmed from my exploration of Pre-Raphaelite art. The passage from Hamlet reads:
"There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element; but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death." (Shakespeare, 1948, 112)
I am drawn to Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro that creates the dark theatricality that comes through in all of his work. I am interested in creating a similar effect with my body of work by using strong lighting effects on my figurative subjects to stimulate a sense of mystery and darkness.
David with the Head of Goliath is a
David with the Head of Goliath, 1610, Caravaggio
I look to William Morris for his intricate textile designs. I view his patterns as a form of organised chaos. There is something playful yet overwhelming about them that becomes alluring and almost hypnotic for the viewer. I create patterns with a similar aesthetic to his, as I also look into the meanings of specific flowers and animals in my designs. In past work I have embedded Morris' original patterns into my compositions as a way of merging old aesthetic values with contemporary subjects, however I have found that when designing my own patterns I can make make them more relevant to the theme of anxiety as I can apply specific symbolisms relevant to the themes I'm working with. I have found a correlation between patterns and anxiety, as they are both repetitious in nature; the patterns repeat the same imagery over and over again, and anxiety is the repetition of unhelpful thoughts in ones mind. Therefore I am exploiting pattern as a means of characterising anxiety.
William Morris, Wreath Wallpaper, 1919
I mainly refer to Ruben's painting for his technical treatment of the figure. The over-exaggeration of warm and cool skin tones make his figures seem otherworldly which is an effect I am interesting in achieving in my work. On a purely technical level, it excites me to attempt to merge this pastel quality with chiaroscuro, and see how the styles interact with each other.
Rubens, Lamentation (Christ in the Straw), detail,1618
Aleah Chapin is a contemporary figurative painter who captures images of women from her live she refers to as her "Aunties". I also exclusively paint women from my life as I feel a certain level of comfort and intimacy that helps me to capture their exact likenesses. Chapin also titles her works with mysterious evocative language that sounds poetic, and gives the work additional context.
Aleah Chapin, We Held the Mountains on our Shoulders, 2018/19