It is not unusual to see tragic or emotionally provoking subjects depicted as art or romanticised by the media. I wish to show how such deep, dark thoughts, for example those of being trapped in depression, can be portrayed as romantic notions. Consider the painting by John Everett Millais of “Ophelia” from Shakespeare's Hamlet; Ophelia allows herself to drown. The painting is beautiful; the artist has portrayed grief and death in a manner that is pleasing to the eye.
Likewise, William Holman Hunt painted Isabella and the pot of basil from a John Keats's poem, in the pot is her dead lover's head. Realistically this idea should fill us with horror, yet the painting is lovely and portrays a romantic idea of lost love.
Stephen Hilyard's “King Wave”, which features five large images of waves, has been paired with smaller images of cemetery tombstones with soft-focus lettering that helps to soften and romanticise the concept of death; both are reference to human demise. King Wave offers a strong example of contemporary approaches to mortality, which contrast the theatricality of the sublime with the banality of death. It has been suggested that this work is a representation of the tsunami crashing upon the shores of Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka killing tens of thousands of people.
Today's televised media also romanticises the idea of death, not only in relation to real life events but also in the portrayal of characters within television series and film, a recent example is the popular series “Dexter”, which portrays the serial killer as the “hero”, justifying his merciless killing by counteracting his actions with the bad deeds of the victim.
Recent events have resulted in this phenomenon being accused of leading the younger generation to take on this romanticised idea of death into their cultural and group norms, leading them to such extreme actions as to take their own lives. Just recently, following the mass suicide of seven young people in a small town in South Wales, MP Madeleine Moon has blamed popular networking web sites of romanticising death and supplying this distorted idea to vulnerable populations.
I wish through painting to delve deeper into this phenomenon, using people's darkest, most painful emotions to create work that is visually appealing, emotionally provoking and sometimes entertaining. Creating a romantic atmosphere allows artists to portray dark subjects without inducing a state of horror or disgust from the viewer. Through their work, artists touch on subjects that would otherwise be disturbing or socially unacceptable. Perhaps, this romanticised view may provide a glimpse of our psyche, and a reflection of our innate coping mechanisms that allow us to cope with the reality of death. ...