Notes about the painting: ‘Cirencester’, 2013, by Laurie Plant.
Commissioned by ‘The Bingham Library Trust’, this contemporary artwork about Cirencester today became an increasingly ambitious, two year project.
I hope this picture can tell more than a thousand words. Not by exploring these places as illustrations or topography, rather by the way in which they can be perceived at that point in painting, where words become less effective and real seeing can begin to spark the imagination.
Initially making a series of pencil, watercolour and pastel drawings on location enabled me to spend time with each of the buildings and places. Observing these living, changing entities, ‘drawing my way into in them’, absorbing a fuller understanding and affinity, helped me understand them differently in order to begin to make this painting a multi-dimensional, complex mystery, not just about places you may recognise, but rather to question the way in which they are investigated and re-presented.
This commission is the most recent in the ‘Iconic Cities Series’, but it differs in the way it focuses on an individual: Reflecting on the continuing influence and legacy of Daniel Bingham’s generosity to date and containing many interwoven ideas about the history, politics, education, charity and benevolence, business, geography and topography of Cirencester. There are, depending how you differentiate, around fifty-four elements that make up the painting.
Although born in Cirencester, Bingham spent most of his life and successful career in Utrecht, managing the Dutch-Rhenish Railway. This sparked my curiosity to investigate further, and try to combine, the themes in Dutch paintings. For example, the anamorphosis (optical distortion) in Holbein’s painting of ‘The Ambassadors’ and the use of chiaroscuro striations (light and dark contrasts) in landscape perspectives by Hobbema – and to venerate them in the Cirencester painting.
This Dutch use of optics led me further into the field of the surreal, towards Dali’s optical techniques. For example, paranoiac imagery (subconscious double meanings) in the depiction of Jill Tweed’s sculpture of the Woolmarket Ram and also in the Blackjack phoenix flames.
Excited by contemporary architects Calatrava and Hadid, as well as another Dutch Artist, Escher, all of whose buildings have moving parts, implied movement or fluidity, I have investigated, in the illusions and perspectives of Cecily Hill, Corinium Museum, Watermoor Spire, Octavia’s bookshop, how curved linearities and refraction can distort our perception of the effects of gravity, our spacial awareness, balance and sense of proximity.
The painting gradually reveals through metaphors, puzzles, distortion, reflection, refraction and other techniques, a kaleidoscopic treasure trove of thoughts that attempt to make recognisable parts of Cirencester today as unfamiliar as possible, in the most precise way.
I am so proud that this painting is on public display for all to share and that this inaugural exhibition in the town centre now plays a key part in the ‘Life and Legacy of Bingham Celebrations and Centenary 2013’.