Cat. No. 1248 Notre Dame Fire “Tribute to Compassion” – Oil on Linen – 60cm x 60cm – 2019
I painted this today because I have a very personal connection to Paris. It was the French painters who were a major inspiration in me becoming a painter, and I have spent a lot of time in the city. The Notre Dame fire was a tragic event that moved people the world over. I feel for the French people who watched in sadness at their history being being destroyed in the fire. But the loss was also felt by people from many other countries who grew up with the image of Notre Dame in their imagination and with the the various stories that have been woven around this icon of French history. I too felt the loss deeply, as someone who has travelled to Paris many times over the years and have a great appreciation for and love of that wonderful city.
Although the Notre Dame Cathedral is in France, it has now become a part of our world heritage and so belongs to all of us. The outpouring of support for the French people was heartwarming and shows us that people the world over have a lot in common. Empathy knows no artificial lines drawn on a map that separate countries. We are all here on this planet together, and we all share a common humanity and a common heritage.
Oil paint can be very expressive. That is what I like so much about using it. The red is cadmium red. It is the most intense red you can find. I don’t think there is any substitute. It was certainly appropriate for this subject to express the heat, and the emotion of the event.
Seeing the pictures and videos of the Notre Dame fire was a very moving event for me personally, and it moved me to express those feelings in a painting. I added a few symbolic items in this painting. The woman in the lower left represents compassion – the compassion we all felt yesterday for the French people when seeing the Notre Dame burning.
The idea for the painting actually came to me fifteen years ago on the high Tibetan plateau. I was there for the annual Shoton Festival. This is an event in which the monks emerge from a monastery after two years of seclusion to drape a massive Thanka over the mountain. People from the far corners of Tibet travel for weeks, and even months, in order to attend the festival. This woman was perched on a mountain top looking up into the sky and praying for her beliefs. The core tenet of her philosophy is compassion for others. It seemed entirely appropriate for the outpouring of compassion that we all saw yesterday.
Below her represented by vague dark shapes which are hardly discernible, are the French people with sadness in their hearts looking up at the fire.
The inferno rages above the Notre Dame cathedral but to the right of the picture is an intense light. This light represents the hope for the future, for the rebuilding of the Notre Dame after the fire, and the hope that the ideas of compassion will ultimately prevail on our planet.
On the very top left of the painting you can barely make out a few stars. They are there to remind us that we are all here stranded on a tiny planet in a vast universe. It is our only home and we all live in it. We need to learn to live together in peace and harmony because our earth is the only home we have in the vastness of space.
Here are some of things I was thinking about when designing the painting :
- unequal space division
- interlocking shapes
- imprimatura – in this painting the imprimatura was a scraped off underpainting. If you lets appropriate parts of this underpainting showing through, it creates a kind of mystery to the painting, since the underlying image is subconsciously still there.
- other oil painting techniques
Here you can see some of the impasto work. You can really use the paint and brushwork to express your feelings using this oil painting technique. It is what I love about oil painting.
This is an interesting crop of the painting. Another composition perhaps?