Horizontal and Vertical Directions

Crucifixion’ by Kirsten Harris, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 150 cm

A jockey friend asked me if I had ever painted a crucifixion? Answer no. But I had been thinking about the symbolism of the vertical and horizontal planes and so decided to attempt this classical and religious subject. Gulp!

‘Crucifixion’ is inspired by Salvador Dali’s (1904 – 1989) famous 1954 Crucifixion painting ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ at the Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow. My aim was to follow Dali’s musculature, structure and chiaroscuro as I placed the horses into the tree and then let my painting emerge.

I painted over a few days just before lockdown and put my shoulder into spasm doing it. I guess it was an intense process! A large painting. Dark, yes, representing my fears for the way we are continuing to crucify the planet, but, fingers crossed, hopeful, expanding and uplifting too.

The horizontal plane is our relationship with earth.

The vertical our relationship with the up that’s up there, the big up, deep space, the unimaginable hugeness. 

When we engage both the vertical and horizontal directions in our thinking we have expansion and freedom. Lengthening and widening! Lengthening and widening akin to a cross. Lengthening and widening which allows physical well being. Lengthening and widening into awareness of the space around us!

Two metres, twenty metres, two thousand dark and light years!

Holding awareness of both the vertical and horizontal is a necessary consideration for riding horses as these thoughts release the spiralling movement of muscle into length and allow freedom and flow for both horse and rider.

Forward we move and the horizontal plane travels through us.

Up, we think and we release the spring of life engaging our movement up and over the ground. 

The horses in the tree hold space open for us to love through all dimensions of time and existence…. Animals have not forgotten how to love, nor do they leave a hideous hoof or paw print like the dirty destructive foot print man has made. 

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Ascension by Kirsten Harris Oil on Canvas, 100 x 150 cm

‘Ascension’ was painted over lockdown and is loosely based on a painting of Jacob’s Ladder by the another Spanish painter, Bartolome Estaban Murillo. (1617 – 1682)

Horses ascend a ladder, seven steps skyward, to be greeted by horse angels, whilst other horses emerge from the seeds.

It is a painting about love of heavenly horses!

The seven steps of the ladder are symbolic. 7 days of the week, 7 chakras, 7 deadly sins…in fact the number 7 is significant in every major religion. Buddha rises and takes 7 steps, The Koran speaks of 7 heavens, Hinduism has 7 higher and 7 lower worlds, Muslim pilgrims walk around Kaaba in Mecca 7 times…  7 is a prime number and so it goes on… 7 is also associated with our short term memory and attention span…It appears 7 is a magic number!

Whilst appearing to be about death and other dimensions, I hope this painting has a lightness and wistfulness to it that it invites us all to think about what small things we can do to make the world a better place. 

That we too are delicate and beautiful like shimmering dandelion clocks and the wings of insects and our time is short. That we all hold our own magic and we must learn to use it.

For example the resurgence in interest in individuals, including me, in growing food during lockdown is wonderful.  In the darkness miracles take place. When we stop rushing thoughtlessly and are forced to consider our place on the planet we can make different hopefully kinder and healthier choices.

Deep in the grass there is hidden a Mother horse. She was central to the painting to begin with, but as it progressed her presence became more subtle, something to find…

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If you would like to be invited to my upcoming postponed exhibition in a wonderful castle here in South Lanarkshire please do email me or subscribe to my blog to stay in touch.

And now to paint…

Thank you so much for reading.

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