Beginning with Chinese scripts and moving through historical and textual representations of this key part of my environment, all of it alongside the actuality, I’ve arrived at the near final stage. As of last week, there is an enclosed and weatherproof space where the building site was. Plastering is happening today and painting will follow soon. I was definitely thinking along futuristic lines for this last pair, especially as its completion is likely to coincide with the landing of the Mars rover I had watched for months as it was constructed. Quite what the composition would be, or the elements of it, had not resolved in my mind. Until this picture:
Not a parsec away from ‘one giant leap’, Stuart from the glazing company is about to become an astronaut on the first crewed mission to Mars. I asked, he’s happy.
In addition to my personal reference photo, I’ve also made use of two NASA images; one to inform the space suit and the other the Martian landscape. I also drew on some printing techniques I used earlier in the module, taking the figure from the photograph, isolating and enlarging it in Paintshop Pro, then outlining it on an A4 piece of OHP film. From this, I’ve made prints on the primary painting (on the right) by block filling the silhouette with white acrylic, transferring that onto the prepared cartridge, and then fold printing it onto the other side. Where transfer was weaker than I wanted, I loaded the reverse side of the film with white acrylic and rollered that onto the surface. The coloured pigments are soft pastel pulled across the textured surface then finger-blended and painted in with a wet brush. I’ve repeatedly dragged this across the figure then repainted it from the film because while I want it to have visibility, I also want it to be quite immaterial. We are not there yet, only our machines are.
I have text to add but I want to let it settle now before doing anything else. This will be drawn from the text of a NASA information video describing the landing site, Jezero crater, and from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds.
7th February. These are the final two paintings.
The link to the previous paintings which have clearly been very much on my doorstep is one of construction. The man whose image is featured, albeit not dressed as he would usually be, is a direct link, and the ladder a symbolic one in that it harks back to the first Moon landing in 1969 while having a very material presence during the current building work. The colours too reflect the sand, cement, plaster, and plastic frames of the new build, as does the grit from the priming process and the dripping wet colours.
At an emotional level, and if all goes well, my studio/conservatory should be complete at the same time as the rover, Perseverance, lands on Mars, an event that builds on many preceding projects and which paves the way for humans to begin a process of colonising the planet.
Perseverance Rover’s Landing Site: Jezero Crater. NASA video Jezero Crater – Perseverance Landing Site – NASA Mars
Wells, H.G. (1898) War of the Worlds. William Heinman, London.
Morgan, J.O. 2020. A dream of planetary subjugation. In: The Martian’s Regress. Cape Poetry. Audio of Morgan reading this poem is here on the The Verb (29th January 2021 – T. S. Eliot Prize edition) at ~15.10 minutes. BBC Radio 3 – The Verb, T.S. Eliot Prize