Abstract cityscape

Acrylic and oil on canvas.

Abstracts are never entirely abstract. They are not straightforward figurative representations of a landscape or a person, but rather, like a poem, they capture a moment or a mood. This picture captures a moment in a busy city centre, one of those dazzling moments we all experience when we are overwhelmed by the shimmer of the buildings the rush of movement so that, briefly, we are not standing in a familiar street but are surrounded by strange and inexplicable shapes. In this picture I have sought to capture the instant before it all resolves back into office blocks and traffic once more, the lingering moment when it is still mysterious.

Abstract cityscape

I began with acrylics to get the colours and shapes down. But then I built the picture up using thick oil paints to capture the glossy surface sheen so typical of the twenty-first century. To build up the oils, I didn’t just use a palette knife, but a range of other tools like trowels and spatulas, so that it felt I was constructing the picture like a city is constructed. And it left the picture with a rough, textured surface like the surface of our buildings.

The picture is composed of bold blocks of colour. The uprights soar like skyscrapers, sometimes reaching right to the top of the frame. They shimmer with white like the light caught in a glass tower. Across these, emerging from behind the uprights or slashing across in front of them, there are horizontal blocks. Sometimes these are the same colour as the verticals, the dark red in the upper right of the picture or the pale pink in the left foreground. Mostly, though, the horizontals are in different colours, white on the right, yellow in the middle of the frame. On the far left there’s a patchy suggestion of green, which may be a city park or a hint of the countryside beyond.

The horizontal colours are streaked, giving the whole picture a hint of urgency. It might be the blurred image we glimpse as we rush from place to place; or perhaps we’re standing still and the scene is hurrying past us. A city is never a quiet place, never unmoving, and that is replicated in the movement of the picture, from the darker, shadowy places over to the right towards the light on the left, where colours start to give out and white remains.

This is the mood of the city as it seems to me, caught in the blink of an eye, a restless place of soaring colours and rushing speed.


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