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Triumph of Death - re-imagined
Short-listed for the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2023

Catalogue entry:

The story of this drawing starts around March 2020 and the beginning of lockdown, my current work no longer felt relevant, I was looking for something to make some sense.


Bruegel’s Triumph of Death offered some hope of meaning for me, it spoke of our time. It is an image of hopelessness, fascinating in its complexity, the eye scans an exhaustive scene of all aspects of our end, there is no let-up in the downpour of grief and destruction and finality, death mocking life and all our pretensions, it is sobering beyond belief. Our fear and vulnerability was put front and centre through the pandemic, a world war of sorts that forced a rethink, death can coming quickly, powerfully, unstoppably.


I started with just taking a detail and expanding gradually, adding pieces of paper as the drawing grew, it was never mapped out, the unusual shape to the overall picture happened by chance. There is a bias in scale towards the bottom left of the composition. 


The embracing couple in the foreground are distinctly contemporary in dress, they are a part of the scene and separate from it in terms of time, material and look, they are slightly larger in scale, they are love amongst desolation, an image of redemption, and the scene unfolding all around them might be their imagined horror, nightmare, a memento mori for them - with love death is always nearby, and our time together is short. 


The couple were the last to be added to the drawing, I always knew that something else was needed and for a long time I played with more negative, aggressive figures, but as time has passed from the depths and terrors of the pandemic the thing that remains is hope and love, and like new plants growing from past contaminated soil, these figures for me are a symbol of compassion and hope. The couple are not an answer in the sense of a rebuttal, a solution, a good outcome, they are just an image of humanity: at once tender, vulnerable, exhausted and afraid.

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