Tastes change as do preferences and it is quite clear that my recent artistic subject matter has primarily focused on the far eastern cultures. It has become a muse to me as I become more familiar with the histories and traditions of the region through my research into the pictures I draw. I guess it all really started many years ago when I heard the lyrics “Pictures of Jap Girls in Synthesis….”from David Bowie’s song “Ashes to Ashes”. The line must have triggered some imaginary response because I always envisioned the graceful performances of the Geisha whenever I heard it, and the spectacle of immaculately presented dancers in refined environments performing to the audience through beautifully timed choreography is a captivating sight and an inspiration to any artist.
With time I began to truly appreciate the dedication a dancer from any culture devotes to performing their art. The years of rigorous training and practice to perfect their choreography is something I can only begin to understand and admire, which in turn inspires me to express in capturing a moment of their performance. This epiphany only started while attempting to draw the Spanish Flamenco Dancer some years ago as I began to research the subject prior to starting the project. It continued with the first Apsara Dancer drawing and both pictures became two parts of a loosely-based concept, contrasting eastern and western cultural styles: The impassioned movements of the Flamenco Dancer to the understated elegance of the Apsara. Needless to say, both performances are a wonder to behold but I became drawn to the exotic and somewhat elusive world of the Apsara and their cultural heritage.
Shortly after completing these pictures I moved on draw several more pictures based on the Far East, beginning “Nyai Roro Kidul (Queen of the Southern Ocean)” a Javanese sea deity inspired by the local legends I had heard about when visiting Indonesia. This was followed by “Chinese Girl with Parasol” depicting a young female courtier during the 10thCentury Imperial Chinese period and was directly inspired by the film “The banquet”, a lavish tale of courtly intrigue, betrayal and revenge within the royal palace of a Chinese Emperor. Two more Apsara pictures followed; one showing a group of dancers and the other setting those dancers within Angkor Wat in a quasi-landscape piece.
My latest work depicts pair of Balinese dancers in full regalia, performing the “Legong” in unison. Famed the world over for their complex and expressive performances, the Balinese style of choreography and presentation differs significantly from their Khmer counterparts. Indeed, the intricacy of the Balinese Legong dancers costumes far exceeds that of the Apsara and drawing them is an exercise in observing detail.
Yet despite the apparent differences between the two styles, subtle parallels do exist and are a direct legacy of Hindu cultural influence throughout South East Asia. Both have origins to royal courtly entertainment and the performances are a form of story-telling. Aesthetically, the use of gilded armbands, belts and headdresses augmented by flowers as well as the floral style of ornament used in their costumes is also noted and common to many other visual styles around the region.
As a result of the studies into the Far Eastern subjects I draw, I begin to see the deeper historical connections that they share and appreciate (perhaps from an anthropological point of view) the spread of ideas and thought as populations interacted with each other over the centuries. It is incredible to think that during that time, mighty empires have risen and fallen and entire civilizations have come and gone but their influence is still glimpsed in the cultures we recognize today. We see it within the arts, customs and architecture and I have found that the very process of initially being inspired to finally completing a picture is an educational experience. Consequently, my awareness of the world around me has expanded and I have come to realize that in order to understand who we are and what shaped our present, we have to understand our past and where we came from.
Inspired by the portraits from charcoal artist Yanni Floros who drew contemporary female subjects facing away from the viewer, I decided to apply the concept to a more cultural theme by using a Cambodian Apsara Dancer as a subject.
In Hindu-Buddhist mythology, the Apsara are female ethereal beings said to inhabit the sky and water and are depicted in various art forms across southern and eastern Asia. They figure prominently in the stone bas-reliefs seen in the 11-13thCentury Angkorian temples and are the inspiration for “The Dance of the Apsara Divinities” performances of the modern era. With gilded headdresses and ornate jewellery the iconic Khmer Apsara dancers narrate classical myths through their graceful choreography.
The title of this picture is derived from the song “The End” by Jim Morrison.
Artist: Stuart Carrol.
Dimensions: Height 64cm x width 48 cm.
Media: Graphite pencil on paper.
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Set during the time in which HG Wells wrote the book “The War of the Worlds” two giant articulated Martian tripods stride past Founder’s Building at the Royal Holloway University of London in Surrey. The story describes these formidable alien war machines (that were far in advance of anything humanity had devised at the time) swiftly putting down any armed resistance against them whilst razing entire towns and villages to the ground and massacring the local population as they went. Fortunately in this scene however, Founders Building and the leafy campus within it is set has been spared the ruthless attention of the invaders as they march past in the direction towards Windsor under a dark and ominous sky.
The Founders Building is located only a few miles away from where the Martians originally landed on Horsell Common near Woking and would have been recently built at the time of publication but it was never included in the original narrative. It is purely an indulgence on my part since it is here that I studied and graduated in Geology. However, the places and towns described in the book are real and anyone familiar with the story would recognise the locations in their late 1890s setting as the book reads like a historic witness’s account of the catastrophe rather than a work of science fiction.
Furthermore, the two tripods that appear here are instantly recognisable from Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the War of the Worlds and are derived from the accompanying album art. The imagery immediately captured my imagination when I first saw it as a child and I have always associated the Martian fighting-machines with Michael Trim’s design.
Hello everyone. I am delighted to announce that my page on the Buy Art Now website has just gone live and I invite you to take a look.
After some consideration, I thought I would take the leap and offer printed reproductions of selected work for sale. It is a big step as I transition into the world of commercial art and what better way to start this new era than to offer my most ambitious piece yet “Apsara Dancers at Angkor Wat”.
Thank you all for view my work here on this website. I will continue to create pictures that I hope will delight (even though they take a lot longer to produce now).
This is a scene from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-four” where the main protagonist Winston is in the custody of the Ministry of Love and is undergoing treatment to correct (or cure) his contempt of the ruling government. Standing guard and watching impassively is a heavily armed member of the thought police, symbolic of absolute authority while the tiled room is representative of the “institution” – a place where people are processed in one form or another.
The thought policeman in this scene does not necessarily represent an oppressive totalitarian state; it could be any group or majority at any level of society in any area of human affairs. Indeed, it is pointed out that the underlying ideology held by the group is irrelevant; the most disturbing thing is the enforcement of those ideals or values (groupthink) upon those that disagree or question or have any other ideas contrary to what is accepted. The book not only portrays power taken to its logical extreme, but it is a frightening illustration of how individual will and thought can be manipulated, broken and re-shaped to suit the beliefs of the state or society at the time. Consequently, Winston’s willful act of rebellion by loving someone other than Big Brother, the apparent figurehead of the pervasive ruling party that controls every single aspect of human behaviour (including thought) leads to his downfall.
The themes of constant surveillance, misinformation, the shifting nature of accepted fact and orthodox thought examined in Nineteen Eighty-four resonate within our modern world more than ever with the tremendous impact of the Internet, social media and the introduction of mobile devices into people’s lives. Orwell’s profound insight is summed up by the following quote from the book that also provided inspiration to this picture:
“The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further. With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end. Every citizen, or at least every citizen important enough to be worth watching, could be kept for twenty-four hours a day under the eyes of the police and in the sound of official propaganda, with all other channels of communication closed. The possibility of enforcing not only complete obedience to the will of the State, but complete uniformity of opinion on all subjects, now existed for the first time.”
I enjoy a good mystery and I thought I’d dabble in world of the unexplained by depicting an aerial close encounter with a UFO from the pilot’s point of view. Many images and videos taken of UFOs over the years always seem to be vague lights or blurred shapes with little reference to scale or distance, rendering them susceptible to debate as to their true nature.
I thought I’d dispense with such vagaries and depict a scene with a craft clearly of exotic design being witnessed by a fighter pilot as he is sent to investigate. The origin of such a UFO may well be extra-terrestrial or perhaps some advanced and very secretive prototype being tested – again I will let your imagination fill in the gaps.
I think most, if not all of us have experienced some form of nightmare at one point or another in our lives, but personally the most terrifying kind is the experience of being attacked by a dark malevolent figure in your own bed while in a state of paralysis. Such phenomenon is widely known throughout every culture in the world and goes by many names. It has also been studied in detail by science over recent decades but while sleep disorders are well understood, it still brings to mind the state of vulnerability we enter during sleep either in the conscious world or subconscious.
I have tried to capture that unnerving feeling of vulnerability here with this scene without resorting to outright horror. The woman in bed seems to be peacefully asleep and oblivious to the looming menacing figure above her. Whether the presence is a product of the woman’s dreams or a real entity in the scene is irrelevant; the threat is obvious as well as the inescapable dread of what will happen next.
This is part 3 of the Apsara theme and by far my most ambitious work. The picture is essentially a construct of different elements of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and the Khmer culture brought together for this composition. While the Apsara Dancers play a prominent role within this narrative, I did not want them to dominate the scene, so I put them within their cultural context by including temple architecture and the serpent statue as well as a landscape and the presence of water (that was critical to the success of the original Khmer civilization). The addition of clouds is intended to make the scene more dramatic and the blue sky is deliberately very dark to enhance the contrast (often seen in black and white photography). Furthermore, I have tried to covey a sweeping vista by setting the composition within a “widescreen” aspect ratio (1:2.9).
The picture is 50cm by 145cm and took 140 hours to draw over six months.