New Portrait for Bath School Leavers project
Wheel of Life 2017
I was one of six artists selected by the Holburne Museum to introduce local Sixth Formers to their new acquisition of the unfinished study of a young man called Arthur Atherley on the verge of leaving Eton, by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830). The final artwork was exhibited in the Brownsword Gallery, alongside portraits from the world’s greatest painters.
The piece reflects the conversation I had with the Ralph Allen students, in response to the portrait and includes words generated through questions during the session. We went beyond the painting to talk about feelings in relation and in sympathy with the portrait subject. We drew parallels, through words, with the emotions a school leaver in the eighteenth century might share with his contemporary counterparts. The duality and range of those feelings is explored in this piece and generates a mixture of optimistic and trepidatious thoughts simultaneously. This modern medium piece seeks to give voice to the reality and relevance of this challenging time for school leavers. It encourages self-acceptance and acts as a visual affirmation.
In the painting, the viewer’s attention is skillfully drawn to the eye of Arthur Atherley and this circular shape is reflected in the wheel. The novelty element of an acrylic multi-coloured attraction is both fun and interactive. The bright colours reflect an exciting and potentially bright future for these adolescents.
The strong graphic shape of the central spinning arrow reflects a sense of forward direction, ongoing movement and future life turns. The visiting public are invited to spin the arrow and see if they too can empathise or celebrate the emotion the arrow has landed on. Adults may be drawn back to their own time as school leavers, prompting forgotten memories and emotions.