Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Oil Painting 44 - Worcester Cathedral Interior

I am especially grateful to the management at Worcester Cathedral for allowing the benefits of my work to overrule the hazards and to grant me access to paint inside the Cathedral.

This interior space is beyond breathtaking, the height, space and unquestionable beauty surround you. Whereas I was struggling to find an angle that satisfied with Oil Painting 43 of the exterior, there was absolutely no problem in locating a vantage point inside the building. This for me, sits alongside some of the best Cathedral Interiors in the North of France. I can now, for the next four days at least, walk to this incredible subject from where I wake, and spend full days responding. The colours change fabulously throughout the day as the sun comes and goes throughout the different stained glass, highlighting the green and golds of the naked cotswold stone. 

I knew instantly this subject would lend itself to my approach and I could produce an individual take with challenging perspectives, gestural brushstrokes whipping the eye around to reflect the enormity and strength of the pillars, and draw out and exaggerate some of the colour subtleties within the stonework in the changing light.

Because there was just so much to go at visually I ended up attempting to contain as much as possible by standing in the central cross of the building in a position where by swinging around I could view down the Nave, both transepts and down towards the Lady Chapel, basically a panorama just short of 360 degrees catching the north, east, south and western stained glass windows in one image. Panning round so far enables you to convincingly wave the horizon and bring in a sense of height. 

This was the main struggle with this painting, wanting to spin right the way round but also knowing the overriding sensation of being in this space, and therefore the main subject, is the gravity defying height. Spinning too much and creating a thin panorama that loses that feeling of looking up would be a failure. The easiest way for me to communicate the height would be flip the panorama on its side, so you simply pan from the floor to the ceiling, which is exactly what I did Oil Painting 42 - Pugin's Gem. This piece is the straight forward symmetrical depiction of the interior of a gothic space and I wasn't surprised to find a photo with nearly the same composition in The Pugin Centre in Cheadle after starting the piece. No, I had got the appeal of the symmetry out of my system with that painting and now wanted to play games with recording right the way around me, looking up and down, even skewing and distorting some aspects to sneak the transept organ in on the right.

It was a compositional struggle that stretched me to the point of not knowing, even after a full days work, if it would read clearly as a representation of space or not. There was a eureka moment when i painted the pattern of the tiles in the central space that helped describe the entire space. All of a sudden the piece then seemed to click with the average viewer, and I gained the approval of the general public which until then had obviously been unsure! This happens a lot with the painting process in public and I often rush to get to the stage where people can read where I am going with the painting, as the activity becomes more enjoyable after that and you do not feel the end to constantly explain yourself. Believe me, a full day of rushed work and doubt, with confused glances from passers by, is a long time!

Gradually though the piece developed and the community of the Cathedral became warmer and warmer to having a painter in with them. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Cathedral, met some wonderful people, and would love the opportunity to spend more time there. A residency either with the Cathedral or the local school would be ideal where I could have more time  to explore spacial representations in this the most breathtaking of interiors. This is something I shall certainly be pursuing once I have finished dragging this 16 tonne tub around the country.

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