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Two 二



100cms (W) x 80cms (H)

Oil on Canvas

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I was challenged to do a subject of Shanghai that was more recognisable than my usual topics, but I wasn't interested in the idea of a realist style, and chose to use the digital style i'd tried a few times previously. It wouldn't be particularly difficult to represent the scene itself in this style, so I tried to also capture it at night, and with environmental factors of rain and fog, which would require me to balance the need for vivid lights but also the distortion of the weather. Finally, I wanted to paint something to represent my personal experience of the pandemic.

Therefore are several reasons I named it 'Two'.

1.  The two people. So often the focus is on the skyline and the sheer color, but it's often just as interesting to watch people's behaviour in this place, as people jostle for position to get a souvenir selfie as part of their visit to Shanghai. However for the reasons below (point 5) , I only wanted a sparse human presence in the painting.

2. The lamps. The huge riverside walkway has victorian style lamps that give you a kind of frame for every view.

3. The squares. To build the image I divided the canvas into 200,000 squares, each of which were 2mm x 2mm.

4. Layers. I painted the whole thing twice. Firstly in a black and white undercoat, and then layered over the color on top.

5. Contrasting Times. Throughout 2020 and 2021  the feeling at the Bund was representative of some of my feelings during the pandemic period as I saw a world famous and extremely heavily visited area become like a ghost town overnight, and to gradually creep back to life over an extended period of time as confidence, travel and normality returned. At time of writing we are close to 2022 (2 years since the lockdown) and it still isn't back to how I remember it in 2019 and prior when there was a truly international feel to the place and people from other countries (such as my home country) could experience this spectacular place. The skyline in the distance is therefore largely lit as it was previously, but the foreground is still a relatively lonely place.

Relatively, because though this has not been the easiest period for me and there are things that I have missed, regretted or been unable to do, I  have still been lucky enough to enjoy a safe and fulfilling time and avoided some of the real hardships that many others have experienced. 

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