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Posts from the ‘SundaySupplement’ Category

Sunday Supplement: High Perspective (Viewed from 21c)

Having recently been voted the top city to visit in the world (as if we didn’t know it already), after last weekend’s Jubilee spectacular and, of course, with the olympics almost on our doorstep, it seems only appropriate that in this week’s Sunday Supplement, I feature one of my paintings which features the city of London as its central theme.

I moved to London ten years ago this September, when I came to study law at King’s College London. I was thrilled when, full of anticipation at what was to be my first day moving away from home in order to start university, I entered my student digs to find this view before me: a perfect vista over London’s south bank complete with the skyscrapers of the city and the tower of Tate Modern, all framing the iconic “Oxo Tower” at the centre. It was as though this room had been chosen for me as an artist, despite the reason for my studies being the pursuit of law. Over that year, I saw this incredible view change over the seasons, as buildings became blanketed with snow, shrowded in a thick mist, and glimmering with the soft hues of pinky golden sunsets and bright midday sun. At the end of my academic year, when my first year law exams were finally over, I imported a canvas into my room and sat down to paint this representation of my view.

High Perspective (Viewed from 21c) (2003 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

It’s not a straight forward landscape: far from it. Rather I used symbols to represent various landmarks rather than paint them directly as I saw them. The GMTV tower on the left for example was replaced with the stack of CDs which my friends and I were listening to during that year, this being a pertinent representation because the GMTV studios are where so many entertainment shows are filmed. Similarly I replaced the Tate tower with a tube of paint, and one of the large publishing headquarters with a stack of magazines (and a couple of law books to show willing). A predominant theme running through the work is food. This was inspired by the Oxo tower itself, named after the stock cube which, in the days when London’s south bank was a hive of industrial activity, would no doubt have been manufactured at the site. Since these stock cubes are frequently incorporated in soups and stews and casseroles, I started reinterpreting the London skyline as various vegetable ingredients which could then be added to the dish which is being cooked in the bottom right hand corner of the work. Instead of the golden balls on the corners of one south bank building, golden tomatoes take their place; similarly London spires become carrots and Norman Foster’s famous “gherkin” building is painted as just that. Finally, since I could see where the river was, but couldn’t actually see the water itself (owing to buildings blocking the view), I imported the water into the scene with the aid of a very long hose pipe which spirals through the roof tops and chimneys before finally adding much needed liquid into the saucepan on my windowsill.

The view as it really was back in 2002

And covered in snow…

So there you have it, one of my most prominent London works, and actually one of my most valuable painting sales when it was sold at exhibition in Mayfair in 2008. Not to worry though – if you like the work and wish you had the original brightening up your lounge, there are limited edition prints of the work available on my main art website, here.

Have a great Sunday and come back to The Daily Norm this coming week for a load of food and art-based posts including the unveiling of my newest painting!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement – The Joie de Vivre Triptych

The sun is shining in London, the olympic torch is gradually winding its way around the country to rapturous applause, and the nation is decking its streets in union jacks in anticipation of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations next weekend (you notice I’ve ignore the slight blip that was eurovision last night, when the UK came second from bottom in the results table – but no surprises there, it only goes to emphasise our disconnection from continental europe). So with spirits high, and with what looks like the arrival of summer (finally!) I have decided to showcase a triptych of paintings which I completed when the times were good, the sun was shining, and I was enjoying uninhibited zest for life. I was holidaying in Marbella, Spain at the time. I had just finished my law degree, and was spending almost a month in Spain. By day I would enjoy the freshness of the mediterranean sea, the heat of the beach, and the pleasure of seafood and of wine. In the balmy afternoons, I would retreat to our sun-dappled garden, under the shade of our fragrant jasmine tree, and rest, contemplate, and (being english, even when in Spain) drink tea.

It was in these times of ultimate afternoon delight that the Joie de Vivre triptych was born, three paintings which were unplanned, but which burst freely out of my paintbrush and straight onto canvas, an apt demonstration of my uninhibited happiness when life was good, the drinks flowed, the sea lapped upon the shore and my imagination came to life.

The resulting triptych sold at my 2006 exhibition, Between me and my Reflection and is now one of my best selling limited edition prints (with some still for sale on my Etsy store). It celebrates the ‘zest’ or joys of life through an illustration of the three stages of culinary and alcoholic indulgence during the day; lunchtime, afternoon tea and evening. Recreation and hedonism are central to the juxtaposed images with a further emphasis on home entertainment, namely piano/music, cards/gambling and chess. Opulence is illustrated by symbols of extravagance contained within all three images, as well as buried treasure and jewellery. Sea food is the culinary indulgence on the menu: many other life-forms or objects are anthropomorphised, for example, the sheep seen in the domestic setting of its whale-house, the musical notes struggling to save each other from the perils of a rough sea, and a snail which digs underground to retrieve the buried treasure. The ‘zest of life’ which these images embody is also specifically reflected by the citrus slices which radiate perfect weather conditions in each scene, while a human hand is always “on hand” to assist in the activities being illustrated, whether it be pouring the cream for the afternoon’s strawberries and the marie-rose sauce for the crab, or dealing out the cards for an evening of casino entertainment. The painted images flow and metamorphose from one object to another, as a string harbour-side lights becomes a string of pearls which in turn  becomes of floating buoys or a sudden rain shower becomes ice cream, piled on a cone to be enjoyed with a glass of rosé.

There’s a lot to explore in these paintings, which are typical of what happens when I set my mind loose, so without further ado I will let you enjoy the paintings in full, hoping that you take from them the optimism for life which they engender as you go about enjoying your sunny sunday and forthcoming summer.

Joie de Vivre/ Zest of Life 1: Crab Cocktail (2005 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

This print is available to purchase as a limited edition print at my Etsy store 

Joie de Vivre/ Zest of Life 2: Afternoon Sea (2005 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

This print is also available to purchase as a limited edition print at my Etsy store

Joie de Vivre/ Zest of Life 3: Casino Nights (2005 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

This print is also available to purchase as a limited edition print at my Etsy store

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement: Convalescence Behind Bars

Yesterday I braved the crowds (which weren’t actually all that bad) and strove boldly into an exhibition which I have been trying to put off for a while (purely because I feared how it would ignite the great contemporary art cynic inside me and make me thoroughly moody for the rest of the weekend): I went along to the Damien Hirst “retrospective” (he is still very much alive and kicking) at Tate Modern, London. The exhibition, which I shall review fully in The Daily Norm tomorrow, wasn’t actually all that bad. One of the works which really captivated, was his four cabinets, irrelevantly entitled Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter respectively, full of pills. You wouldn’t normally notice the humble pill. In fact generally speaking, when you’re having to take a pill, it invariably holds some negative connotation, whether it’s an illness-defying super drug or a good old vitamin D supplement just because your work (or country, as is the case with the UK) precludes you from getting enough sun.

Damien Hirst, Lullaby, the Seasons (2002) (detail)

When Damien Hirst put a plethora of different coloured, different sized tablets together, each meticulously displayed in a huge mirrored and glass cabinet, he called attention to the strange and unique beauty of the humble pill. Who would have imagined there were so many shapes and colours in amongst our medicines. Even the powder inside the capsules looked like a floral pattern from a distance as different beads of colour intermingled delicately.

All of this brought to mind a time when I too had to take so many tablets and pills that I was able to admire them with an artist’s eye, when a collection of multi-coloured pills started to look like a rainbow in my hand, until reality set it and I realised with horror that having been taking such a cocktail of drugs for so long, my poor liver would surely be irreparably damaged and my natural bacterial system zapped dry of any life or goodness.

My leg in the weeks following the accident

The time was 2008 and the three years which followed. It was in the aftermath of a terrible accident which blighted my life. When a lorry crashed into a wall as I was passing by, the full 10 ft concrete mass fell on top of me, crushing my right leg to smithereens. Only the quick reaction and medical skill of the trauma unit at St George’s Hospital in south London managed to save my leg, but in order to piece the leg back together, I had an illizarov frame attached to my leg. For anyone who doesn’t know what one of these frames is (I’ve enclosed as ungruesome a photo as possible of the leg a few weeks after the accident) it’s a series of metal supports which “fix” the broken bones from the outside with pins which insert the leg directly. I had to wear this complex frame for 9 months. It was the most horrific, painful period of my life, and convalescing with one of these monsters attached was by far the most frustrating and horrendous process of my recovery. I felt like a prisoner in this frame which could never be removed, and which caused so much agony.

In order to get through the long aftermath of my accident, I painted. The ten paintings which I completed at this time are amongst the most important of my current oeuvre because without the ability to paint, I don’t know how I would have survived. The painting I am focusing on today, and the one which Damien Hirst brought to mind, is this one, Convalescence Behind Bars: The Banoffee Blood-Press (2008, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas).

Convalescence Behind Bars: The Banoffee Blood-Press (2008, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

I thought the frame looked a bit like a French press caffetiere, so I painted it as such. But in this painting the frame presses not coffee, but blood. Blood which, as it percolates through the press reveals it’s true components – pill upon pill of the drugs I had to take at that time: Tramadol, Amitriptyline, Flucloxacillin, Temazepam, Paracetamol, Co-codomol, Ibuprofen, you name it, I was taking it. Then to the left, the humble banana, a nourishing food at a time when I could barely eat, and the fear of slipping, which would have smashed my bones to smithereens all over again.

So pills are beautiful, but they also represent pain. For me, I have a love-hate relationship with these colourful capsules, reminding of a time when my world was rocked by trauma, and a future in which my leg will suffer interminably. It’s a bit like my relationship with Damien Hirst’s work itself. More on that, tomorrow.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement: Tragic Conflict – Sophocles’ Antigone

Following on from last weekend’s greek inspired Sunday Supplement and food fest (still remaining to be shared – I’ll try to get it up this week!) I turn this Sunday to another of my paintings which looked to Greece for its inspiration. As a teenager I was an avid fan of Greek mythology and Greek tragedies from prolific ancient Grecian playwrights such as Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles, a passion which was founded in my A-Level classical civilisation studies and which continued when I travelled on my own “grand tour” around Europe, visiting the likes of Ithaca, supposed birthplace and kingdom of Odysseus, and Delos, the now deserted island of Apollo off the coast of Mykonos. All of this took something of a necessary backseat when I went on to study law at university, but resurfaced once again when I was studying a Masters in Medical Law and Ethics. As part of the ethics section of the course, we dealt with the question of tragic conflict – situations when, for example, a parent comes under a terrible dilemma when two co-joined twins require a separation: lose one twin to save the other or both will die – what do you do? As part of our ethical approach to the dilemma, we were directed to read Antigone, by Sophocles, a play in which a similar tragic conflict is played out. For King Creon, the tragic conflict was the choice between his role as King and protector of the State versus his role as family man. When one member of his family betrayed the State, what choice should he make? State, or family?

The play is a powerful one, and the moment I read it, the story began to play out as an illustration in my mind. I set to work on a new canvas, and this was the result.

Tragic Conflict: Sophocles’ Antigone (2006 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, Acrylic on canvas)

King Creon of Thebes saw people not in terms of love or blood, but through their role in the State over which he ruled. He threw out the body of his own great-nephew, Polyneices to the crows because of his treachery to the City, and sentenced to death his great-niece, Antigone, his moral antithesis, whose morality was based in blood and familial honour. In my painted interpretation, the play is illustrated on a never-ending chess board, and as such illustrates the regimental regime fronted by Creon. Every character in the play is represented as a chess piece, so that rather than as a human individual, they are illustrated only in relation to their role, as seen by Creon, in the State. But no game of chess can properly function without the moves of a human hand. In denying a place for humanity within his Kingdom and morality, Creon makes a tragic fault, and as perhaps the real tragic hero of the play, he sees his Kingdom destroyed, his family dead, and his loyal chorus (the pawns) desert him. Meanwhile, Antigone, the hand of human morality and protagonist of the play, marks the final blow to Creon’s tragedy as Polyneices’ honour is restored with the support of the gods, and Creon’s regimental world is blown apart. I should add that the can of “Dead Bull” (looking like “Red Bull”) represents the portents of death predicted by Creon’s priest.

Tzar Nicholas II and his family

Creon’s dilemma is not unique to the times of ancient Greece. In 1917, King George V had a choice whether to save his cousin, Tzar Nicholas II and his family from the impending threat of the revolution in Russia, by allowing him asylum in the United Kingdom, or leaving the Tzar and his family to their peril in order to preserve the position of the Royal family in the UK amid fears that there would be a similar revolution in the UK, not to mention the fear that the Russian royals would become a focus for anti-reovolitionary focus in times of war. In the end, he chose his role as statesman and refused his cousin asylum. The decision must have been agonising, but like King Creon, he chose to protect the State over his family. The consequence for the Tzarian royal family was a tragedy indeed.

All this goes to show that Sophocles’ moral message is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in or before 442 BC. This week saw the London 2012 olympic flame lit by the sun on Mount Olympus in a ceremony which reflected religious rituals from Ancient Greece. Press commentary on the ceremony made light of the “costumes” worn by the flame bearers and the frivolity of the dancing and the spectacle. I thought it was stunning, a moving demonstration that religions and traditions past, while mainly captured within the pages of mythology, still have the power to impact upon us and guide as all as we face both spectacles and moral dilemmas in our everyday lives.

Lighting of the Olympic flame

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement: Achean adventure and Cruise thru Cubes

I’m in Greece mode. It all started the other night when I was channel flicking in a desperate attempt not to go to bed which means the inevitable rise the following morning for work. In the process, I staggered upon the film version of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz and I was entranced. Despite having the film on DVD in my cabinet and having seen it at the cinema when it first came out, I’ve always dismissed the film to some extent because, like many other fans of the sensational Louis De Bernieres original novel, I was pretty upset about how much the film changed the charm, and crucially the ending of the book. I wasn’t best pleased about the casting of Cage as Captain Corelli either, who I had always imagined to be a short, rotund charismatic fellow.

Nevertheless, when I caught a glimpse of the film, it entered my flat, descended with the rest of the UK into a renewed wintery gloom, with a much needed breath of fresh summery air. Who cannot be seduced by the stunning cinematography of the film which was set exclusively on the island of Cephalonia, as De Bernieres had intended.

So all of this has sparked off a Greek revival in my flat. Greece has been getting a lot of bad press recently, what with financial disaster threatening to instigate a total collapse of the single European currency, and countless violent strikes and protests reacting against the suffocating austerity budgets imposed across the county. But while its coffers may be found wanting, what Greece does have is a wealth of cultural and historical richness which is almost unrivalled, not to mention a cluster of beautiful island destinations, each with their own individuality and incredibly picture-postcard views.

The beaches of stunning Cephalonia

I was lucky enough to  visit the Greek islands twice during my gap year back in 2001/2, first piggybacking with my sister upon my parents’ wedding anniversary celebratory cruise around the Aegean Sea, and later in the year, joining two very good friends for a little island hopping around the Ionian Islands of which Cephalonia is one. While I would love to return to these gorgeous lands, where empty beaches and crystal clear waters can be found in their plenty, along side charming crumbling houses, and dry arid landscapes and mountain passes, I have in the meantime satisfied myself by grabbing the Captain Corelli DVD and watching the film through not once, but twice. I have also been cooking dish after dish of Greek treats (hopefully to be featured on my blog sometime this week) and now, for your viewing pleasure, I’m featuring two of the paintings I completed back in my gap year, at the ripe age of 18, when I first visited Greece on my parents’ anniversary cruise.

Shot from the film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

The first painting, Achean Adventure (2001), reflects not only upon the cruise liner, which can be seen emerging from the Greek flag, but also the antiquity which features predominantly across Greece (and which had a particular fascination for me having just completed my A-Level classics studies at the time) and the beautiful Grecian landscapes such as this one, of the island of Santorini.

Achean Adventure (2001 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

The second painting, Cruise Thru Cubes (2001) works like a multilayered exploration of our cruise around the Aegean Sea. Uncover various layers of the painting, and you see the cruise liner having docked and sailed in a variety of different destinations across the cruise, amongst them Mykonos (on the right) and Santorini (on the left).

Cruise thru Cubes (2001 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

It’s good to give these paintings a good airing. Completed over ten years ago, they were some of my earliest painting attempts, and Achean Adventure was sold shortly after I painted it when it was first exhibited in Sussex.

Hopefully this post will bring a little mediterranean sunshine into your Sunday especially if, like mine, it’s gloomy like hell. I’d better sign off now… I feel the need to shop around for a cheap trip to Cephalonia…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement: Fish in Four Quadrants

The humble goldfish has filled many a household with a splash of orange and a friendly face in the morning. However my experience with goldfish hasn’t been great. My first twosome, Gucci and Versace, died after about 10 days, both found one solemn morning floating on the surface of their little tank, neither escaping the sad fate which had befallen them. My next attempt: Giorgio and Armani fell subject to the same fate, despite all of our efforts to clean their tank, feed them as appropriate, and even manage their surroundings into a beautiful catwalk of fish tank beauty as befitted their namesake. But no. Dead again.

So I put my attempts at keeping goldfish to bed, humbly accepting defeat and concentrating instead on the guinea pigs who gave me such childhood pleasure. Nonetheless, when my sister headed to university, she found herself drafted into looking after the goldfish of one of her friends until, almost by default, she became its new adopted mother. This fish, named by the family “Fish Brown” after our surname, had nonesuch the glamourous title given to my former protégés, but what this fish lacked in name, it surely made up for in nature. This was no ordinary goldfish, with swaying silky fins which wafted elegantly behind him whenever he moved. Even with a long poo hanging from his tummy, this fish looked persistently debonair. Unsurprisingly, I was inspired to paint him, but being undecided as to which pose I should concentrate on, I painted Fish Brown from four different angles, set against different backgrounds of light and shade.

My Fish in Four Quadrants was born.

Fish in Four Quadrants (2004 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, Acrylic on canvas)

If you like the painting and fancy a slice of Fish Brown in your own home, both this original canvas, and limited edition prints of the painting are available for sale. If you are interest in acquiring one, send me a message and I’ll give you all the details. Alternatively all of my limited edition prints are for sale via my main website www.delacy-brown.com. Have a great Sunday!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2004-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement: Road Traffic Control (The Semana Santa Code)

Happy Easter everyone! Yes it may be grey, and bleak, and ever so slightly damp here in London, but my flat is nonetheless filled with all the yellows of Spring, a chicken (cooked Spanish style with a grape juice glaze and caramalised apples) is about to go into the oven, and I am still putting up total resistance to the chocolate temptations all around.

In this final post in a week which has been bursting full of Easter-themed homages, mainly to the sensational Semana Santa spectacles of my dear España, I introduce you to my ultimate canvas exploring the theme of Semana Santa. This vast painting, entitled Road Traffic Control (The Semana Santa Code) was painted by yours truly towards the end of last year and is consequently my most recent painted depiction of the Semana Santa parades. But this work, which measures some 150cm across, depicts Semana Santa processions in a slightly unusual way, using road traffic symbols from the highway code to illustrate the main characters in a typical Semana Santa procession. In fact, the symbolism is at times so detailed that I like to think of the painting as being something of a new Da Vinci Code, the likes of which I will decrypt in today’s Sunday Supplement.

Road Traffic Control (The Semana Santa Code) (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Traffic Cones and the Lily Cathedral

Road Traffic Control - Nazareños detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

The idea behind this interpretation of Semana Santa came to me when I was watching a procession last year and it occurred to me that the Nazareños with their pointed hats look a bit like walking traffic cones. From there the idea was born – their candles were swiftly replaced by zebra crossing lamps, the large lanterns carried at the front of the parade were replaced by traffic lights, and the banner held at the front of the procession was replaced by a “Controlled Zone” sign – after all, isn’t religion an attempt to control or at least orchestrate a way of life? The road is of course no different from the kind of road which a procession in Spain would walk along, except that here it spirals and wafts like a ribbon in full flight, from its point of emergence from a large lily, which represents a great Spanish Catedral, the smaller bell-like cala lily representing the cathedral’s campanile.

Brass Bands

Road Traffic Control - Brass band detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Road Traffic Control - Drums detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

In every procession, there are at least two brass or military bands setting a rhythm and a melodic resonance for the procession. Generally speaking, a band will either lead or follow the Jesus tronos, and a second will either lead or follow Mary. Here the representation of the bands follows the road traffic theme, with old fashioned car hooters and police ribbon making up the first band, while roundabout drums with sides made up from a road’s diagonal warning lines (which warn of an approach to a junction or crossing) make up the second.

The depiction of Jesus

Road Traffic Control - Crucifix detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Road Traffic Control - Jesus detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

For me, the depiction of Jesus came as easily to my mind as the traffic cones – I used the “crossroads” symbol to represent the crucifixion carried on a tronos, while before it, the signs carried by Nazareños represent, in order: the crucifxion (cross roads); pilgrims (elderly crossing); the disciples (pedestrians); Jesus on a donkey; the Holy Trinity (roundabout); the crusades (explosives); no U-Turn i.e. do not turn your back on Christ; and Give Way – to the Catholic faith as the one and only true religion.

The depiction of Mary

Road Traffic Control - Mary detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Road Traffic Control - Mary detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Mary is depicted using the “motorway” symbol which, with the addition of a small bridging line at the top, resembles a figure with a veil over her head. Meanwhile, the parade which precedes her includes signs with the following meaning: Mary, Mother of Christ (M1); the immaculate conception (no through way); Mother and Child; the ascension; pilgrims (disabled – such as those visiting Lourdes to visit the shrine of Mary).

Finally the painting ends with a sign signifying the end of the “controlled zone”. Hence the title of the painting, “Road Traffic Control”.

Road Traffic Control - Zone end detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

I hope you’ve enjoyed the painting and have a great Easter Day, wherever you are.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement – Metamorphosis: Pond Life in the Afternoon

Spring is in the air in the UK. In fact, ever since the spring solecist on 21 March, the sun has been beating down, and it has felt more akin to early summer than early spring. OK, it’s true, we are going to be punished with a hosepipe ban come 1 April – as they say, nothing in life is free – but in the meantime, I am happy to bask in these early symptoms of summer and, starting from today, lighter summery evenings too.

In celebration of the onset of the British Summertime, in today’s Sunday Supplement, I focus on a painting which I created in May 2008, Metamorphosis: Pond Life in the Afternoon. The name of the work, and the imagery, were both created in anticipation of a solo retrospective exhibition of my work in Belgravia, London, during which the collection of work on show hoped to demonstrate my evolution as an artist over 10 years – from more naive figurative work to deeper, more thematically sophisticated representations. Thus, in this painting, a number of features make reference to my former body of work.

Metamorphosis: Pond Life in the Afternoon (2008, acrylic on canvas) © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown

At the top of the canvas, naively painted colourful trees are planted amidst simple plants, recollecting paintings such as Orange Square painted in 2002. Next come the Norms, who dominated my work in 2005 and who here are shown enjoying a summer afternoon in a pond. Around them, game symbols of dominoes and a dart board reference my 2005/6 paintings – the Joie de Vivre collection, Tragic Conflict: Sophocles’ Antigone and La Foret des Jeux, in which game symbols dominated. As we travel downwards through the canvas, the work becomes more precise, from simple trees above to more delicately painted peonies and cakes.

In the meantime there are two representations of my life at the time of painting the work – the birth of my nephew, as shown floating around in a large cup of tea, and a group of tabloid newspapers featuring stories about me – I had at this time just appeared in the popular TV show, The Apprentice. 

The over all setting is English garden life on a summer’s afternoon – playful games in water, and afternoon tea complete with Victoria Sponge, pancakes, strawberries, jam tarts and fondant fancies. The title “Pond Life” also refers to the tabloid press however – since pond life in English slang, also means “scum”. And that represented my feelings for the press at the time. Meanwhile “metamorphosis” refers not only to my artistic changes, but also to the changes and growth within nature, hence the tadpoles and bees, representing fertility and rebirth in this garden of delights.

It is ironic perhaps that only days after this painting was completed, I was involved in a life-altering accident which changed my artistic style forever.

Metamorphosis: Pond life in the afternoon (detail) (2008 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

I leave you now to enjoy a hopefully sunny Sunday. See you next week.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement: La Foret des Jeux / Q4- exploring the subconscious

A sunday supplement focusing on my non-Norm paintings is well overdue I think, and for this weekend’s supplement, I have decided to go with a painting which I created in 2007/8 following something of a recurrent dream. It’s a work which is magical and jovial, surreal and fantastical, and therefore a perfect follow up to the Royal Ballet’s superb performance of The Dream which I saw last Monday.

The works featured today were painted within a short space of one another when I was exploring my subconscious. There are two “places” on which I constantly reflect in my subconscious and as an artist seeking inspiration. Both are imaginary. One is a kind of chic but dilapidated house, quite dark, with heavy damask wall coverings, low lighting, lavish furnishings and a general air of mysterious desertion about it. Out of the window is a city landscape – rooftops – almost certainly Paris, and the weather is bleak, probably autumn, dark. This place is triggered in my imagination by certain things – cool lounge music such as Hotel Costes often does the trick. Often there is no trigger at all – I just find myself transformed there in the middle of a working day. I tried to represent this place in my 2007 canvas, Q4. As with any attempt to drag the subconscious level into everyday language, the task was difficult, and while the painting comes close to creating that place to which my mind wanders, it cannot fully represent the feeling I have when I escape into the realms of my deepest imagination.

Q4 (2007 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

The second place I constantly return to in my subconscious is a dark forest on a summer’s night. The forest is full of surreal things, semi-hidden signs of life and a small source of water. It’s a little scary but not intimidating – the forest is hung with paper lanterns, and forest creatures provide a welcome atmosphere to me – the visitor. In seeking to paint this whimsical vision on canvas in La Foret des Jeux (the Forest of Games), I played on the surreal themes which I knew were weaved into my own imaginings. I imported the theme of games – as I had done in previous surreal paintings – and no doubt inspired by the likes of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I anthropomorphised chess pieces bringing life to the scene – showing the King sitting upon a thrown, the Bishop falling from a tipped bath of water, and the Queen picnicking with her playing Pawn children. There onwards I let my imagination run wild, making for a rather surreal but playful image. It was painted at a time when my imagination was ripe for the picking – I’m not so sure I could paint something like this today.

La Foret des Jeux (2008 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

La Foret des Jeux, Canvas 1 (2008 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

La Foret des Jeux, Canvas 2 (2008 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Wishing you a relaxed and enjoyable Sunday.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement: The Sweet Potato Eaters

I have already referred enthusiastically, earlier in the week, to the socially insightful early masterpiece of Van Gogh – his dowdy, brown-shaded gathering of peasants, The Potato Eaters. So different from his later works, where all the melancholy and subdued tones of his earlier Dutch-based paintings seem to have been discarded, to be replaced with vivid multicoloured rainbow spectrums, flowers, landscapes and characterful people, despite the continuing melancholia escalating in his soul. Yet this painting is no less a masterpiece for its lack of colour, bandaged ears and sunflowers. True, this work would not sit so well on a chocolate box or mouse pad, but it is nevertheless a truly stunning painting to behold, and a truly genuine, authentic insight into the simple life of peasants.

Van Gogh, The Potato Eaters (1885, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

Many things strike me about the work, and I can’t wait to see the original (hopefully) when I head to Amsterdam this week. I love the strong contrast between light and shade, the concentration of light in the centre of the table, drawing the viewer into this cosy, intimate scene. I like the faces of the peasants – coarse, worn down, but somehow contented with their humble dinner. And I love the surroundings, dark, dingy, but containing small trinkets demonstrative of the familial setting of the painting. All things combined, before even seeing the original, I was inspired to undertake a parody of the work back in 2010. Taking Van Gogh’s composition, I translated the scene into one of my family. In the painting is a self-portrait (far left) along with portraits of my mother, partner, sister and nephew. Instead of potatoes, we enjoy sweet potatoes, perhaps reminiscent of the better, sweeter life that we are lucky enough to have enjoyed compared to the peasants in Van Gogh’s original.

The Sweet Potato Eaters (after Van Gogh) (oil on canvas, 2010 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

In my painting, the room remains basically the same as Van Gogh’s, but I include a number of features pertaining to my family home – the retro 60s lamp which hangs in my parents dining room, the cuckoo clock which hangs in mine. On the wall is one of my paintings (Lighthouse II: Starry Night) the title of which also refers to a Van Gogh work. In the back room, my family piano features, while on the table, Van Gogh’s simple tea cups are replaced with the Arabia mugs which both my mother and I have a huge collection of – featuring illustrations of Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories. On the shelves, onions, garlic and chorizo represent our affinity, as a family, with Spain, while the shiny coffee maker represents my partner’s family living in Italy.

I took the unusual move, because of the size and scale of the project, of photographing my work as it progressed. I therefore have a series of 45 photos which show how I created the work, step by step. Hopefully this will feature (if I’ve got my technology right) as a slideshow below. I think it adds to the effect to speed up the slide show a bit by clicking on the right arrow – that way you really see the progress of the painting in fastfoward mode.

Enjoy the work, enjoy your Sunday and see you in… Amsterdam!!!

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