Part 1: Painting Revealed : Fire & Water

Fire & Water, 2007, 50x70cm, acrylic on canvas

It was 2007 and the theme I proposed for my adult painting class in Bunnik, The Netherlands, was that of the four elements: fire, water, earth and air. Inspired myself by the theme, I began contemplating the elements of fire and water interspersing as an idea for a painting. I liked the idea of red and blue as base colours. I knew I wanted a strong contrast and that although fire generally has a more transparent quality and often in the direction of yellow, that wasn’t going to work for me visually. Transparent yellows meeting blue would have resulted in greens and yellows which I didn’t want. It was important for me that the meeting of the red and blue, the fire and water was of equal strength, pure and sharp. If you look at the painting where red and blue now overlap you can play with seeing red in front of the blue and vice versa.

Other than this vague idea I had no idea what form the painting would take. The first version which is not seen here was made on paper of A4 size approx. I initially grabbed a large household paint brush and slid the brush with dark paint back and forth horizontally. I then turned the painting upside down and immediately saw mountains. No denying the silhouette of a mountain. A painting was born.

I then proceeded to play with the paint and imagined the sensation of being a bird skimming really low and fast over the water. A sense of speed was important, hence the addition of lines in the water. The initial version looks very similar to this one except for the size and the fact that the waters edge was more straight across and not curved.  When completed. I thought it had potential but wasn’t quite there. Hence, I remade the idea on canvas and added the curved waterfall edge to increase the sense of dynamism which is a common factor in my paintings.

“Fire & Water” has been exhibited in the Netherlands, Ireland and the USA many times. For years knowing it was gem, I refused to sell it. A good friend of mine and avid art collector said if I ever changed my mind about selling it, she would be interested.  Just a couple of years ago I finally succumbed to parting with “Fire & Water”. The painting  found a most glorious home at my friends house in Switzerland, with spectacular views of lake Geneva and the surrounding mountains. And I can visit it!

I consider ”Fire & Water” to be a pivotal painting in my life’s works so far. The reason is not only because of its striking beauty, strong composition and dynamism,  but also because it represents a time in my development when I was between styles; between figurative and abstract. Its figurative, yet fantasy. Representative of a landscape yet is expressive in its colour use. It was a point when I was saying goodbye to painting more realistic Irish landscapes and before my current abstract phase.

Now and again a painting  seems to form itself in front of your eyes and “Fire & Water” was one of those easy births. A painting of which I am proud of even after all those years.