The Thinker [diptych] Painting by Mike Edwards

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Painting: Acrylic, Airbrush on Canvas.

This artwork has been long-listed for Contemporary Visions 2019 at Beers Contemporary London.

A painting about duality. A diptych over two canvases each measuring 160cm x 120cm. The elements of the right canvas recede into infinity - with a chaotic delicately painted scribble hanging in mid-space - while the elements of the left canvas appear to burst through the surface of the canvas.

The title is an art-historical reference to Rodin’s masterpiece ‘The Thinker’. I wanted to create an artwork with a similar consideration of human’s capacity for nuanced thought and reflection - particularly in the context of our polemic times.

Contemporary debate - particularly in the media - seems reductive and binary at the moment - diminishing the idea or opportunity for positive intelligent discourse.

There always has been - and always will be - opposing views. However, in the yin and yang of Chinese philosophy for example [there is no shadow without light etc.] these opposing forces can - and should - compliment each other to create a more profound whole. So this concept of duality - two elements coming together to create a greater single element is a theme that runs through the artwork..

Hence two canvases. One serene - one more violent. In one the visual elements recede - in the other they are made to appear to come forward through the canvas.

The right-hand canvas is more about ruminations.. An almost universal reaction to a thought-provoking question or situation is to verbalise an "UM". We say it out loud almost sub-consciously when we're considering a difficult concept or we see something that confounds.. "Umm.. did you just see what I just saw??.." .."What's the meaning of life?..Ummm.."

I'd made large contemporary paintings before using text as the basis of the composition - and the abstract qualities of the 'U' and the 'M' coming together in this instance had a balance that pleased the eye. The haziness worked to evoke the idea of being lost in thought.. People can be 'distant' when thinking - so I wanted the letters to recede into the distance..

Hanging visually in front - in sharp focus - is a motif capturing the energy, chaos and spontaneity of thought. Perhaps it's the visual manifestation of an idea..? I wanted a gesture that was unselfconscious, fresh, energetic - so I made dozens of immediate pencil-scribbles on paper - each one taking barely a second.

Again, with yin and yang at play, this single mark made in an instant - was then delicately transcribed onto the canvas - making sure the integrity and intricacy of the curves and lines of the original sketch were kept intact. This way the motif would retain as much of the energy of the original mark as possible.

The same method was used to create the giant splat of the left-hand canvas. I've made - and continue to make - a series of paintings called 'Black Firework Paintings'. These are made by throwing small balloons filled with black paint onto small canvases that have temporary needles poking through to burst the balloon. It takes hundreds of goes to get the right splat - but once achieved - and in the case of 'The Thinker' painting - this is then enlarged and traced onto the larger canvas. [I still have the original 30cm splat canvas]..

The concept is of fireworks that darken the night as opposed to lighten it - i.e. a kind of anti-celebratory firework. In the context of this painting I was using the black firework to symbolise dark thoughts - or thoughts that exploded the mind.

This is counter-balanced by the faux neon illumination of the skull motif. I wanted something universal and simple to visually represent the mind - and by making it neon, or lit up, for it to symbolise learning and enlightenment.

This particular skull motif is an image I’ve worked on for over two years - reducing the elements down over time to the simplest representation I could render. As well as making it a contemporary personal rendition - it also acknowledges the universal use of the skull across all human cultures throughout history - asserting the point of our shared commonality.

There's also a hint of humour in the slightly startled look - and as is well known, a sense of humour is a good sign of intelligence.

So, if I was to summarise the artwork in a sentence - I would suggest: “It’s a visualisation of the illuminated mind startled by observing and contemplating both the darkness and enlightenment of the world.."

Of course, all art is subjective - but hopefully this gives some insight into the thinking behind the creation of the painting..


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The Thinker [diptych]

Mike Edwards

United Kingdom

Painting

Size: 94.5 W x 63 H x 1.6 in

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