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A series of triptychs

In this post OCA tutor Jim Cowan presents a digital visit of his current exhibition. It features a number of paintings constructed in the format of a Triptych beside others that have been painted separately but seem to belong in groups of three.

The cities of New York and St Petersburg provided the subject matter and the inspiration for this exhibition.  

The most famous building in New York is the Empire State building and the first painting I did was not of the building itself, but rather the view from it looking down onto the city. To tackle the building properly meant finding a vantage point and a view that was not obscured by other high-rise buildings in this densely built environment. Composition was the key and discovering the view as seen from Union Square proved to offer the best solution. . 

When sunlight falls on the New York cities fire escapes, the shadows cast provide complex grids of interlocking lines that produce an interesting abstract framework.  At first I painted the red bricks of the buildings but then changed to a basic light blue background which when combined with the black and white painted ironwork reveal the template for this particular series.

My next discovery was the Central Park Carousel  with its hand carved horses made originally by Soloman Stein and Harry Goldstein in 1908. The quality of the carving, the bright colours of the horse’s regalia and the comic incidents that surround the central drum was too attractive to ignore.      

In contrast, St Petersburg is a city of splendid classical and baroque architecture so different from the frenetic energy of New York. Set on the banks of the River Neva and with its many canals, the pictures that inspired me were not the stately palaces and prospects that make up the city but rather the street scenes reflected in windows which were then interspersed and enhanced with the use of collage.  When seen in this way, the paintings got darker and more complex and a greater abstraction began to predominate. The longer landscape format was also problematic until I discovered that separating the designs into three pictures solved the problem and at the same time extended the narrative of the picture -and with that began the Series of Triptychs.

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Posted by author: James Cowan
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