A Political Fable
The artwork Metropolis and The Fruits of Our Labour comprises a painting, its title, and sub-title. All three elements work together as a whole.
The title gives context to what may otherwise be experienced as an enigmatic abstract painting. The sub-title further clarifies its intent.
Metropolis: from the Ancient Greek for "mother city".
The Fruits of Our Labour: the outcome of effort.
Political: the way power is achieved and used.
Fable: a narrative with hidden meaning to uncover.
Green-blue, bronze, and sandstone forms clutter this mysterious canvas.
The 1927 silent film Metropolis presents a vision of the future, now our past and the year 2000, where a radiant and cultured utopia and a dark subterranean underworld of exploited workers exist, isolated and in large part unaware yet bound by the other. Political ideas about class, society, and urban life are examined in often monumental settings with highly stylised cinematography.
The text that appears as the film draws to a close, "The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart" declares that what we think and what we do should be governed by what we feel.
The painting shows a place beneath and above, where six flowers, four above and below and one at the centre of each side, ray their reach towards the central spiky form of warm rust colour as if its heart and strength.
Although the heart is at best an unreliable adjudicator, how we feel is more often than not the reason why we act. Perhaps 'the heart' might also be thought of as an expression of those things most valued. For me these are the qualities I know as compassion, beauty, and love, however another's heart may point them in a very different direction...
The fruits of summer: strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, were incorporated into this work but are now so abstracted they are no longer recognizable. The summer fruits represent the culmination of natural growth, absorbed by the metropolis of uncertain dream-like shapes.
The forward motion and flow of an arrow-like boundary fades into the background at the upper and lower reaches of the artwork and moves the eye from left to right. The heads and torsos of figures locked firm together in groups of three are scattered across the dense canvas. Centurion-like they look directly and intently at the viewer. An extract from the accompanying untextured work "Metropolis, The Fruits Of Our Labour" shows a close view of the head of one of these figures, the final image on this page.
Apart from attracting the eye, art also has the potential to appeal to our sense of curiosity and need to understand. There are some who enjoy a great deal of subtext and breadth to their engagement with art. They may associate the style of this work with art nouveau which was contemporaneous with the film Metropolis, and that too may fire off associations of the time before the great economic depression of the 1930s. Art for me is not so convincing in providing answers, but rather its strength lies in its questioning.
What makes my metropolis? My network of thought? My sense of being small within a larger teaming whole?
'Metropolis And The Fruits of Our Labour' is my starting place to ponder on how the forces of technological progress transforms not only the inorganic, but life itself. The fruits of our labour counters the invasion of a virus that lies at the centre of human life.
I gaze at the image once again and consider how the pandemic has become subject to greed and avarice, and how instead of the virus being an opportunity for us all to pull together in a place of the heart where we show our generosity and kindness, humans compete against one another for profit and self-interest to control what saves lives. For these people the value of money and personal gain outweighs the value of life itself... The fruits of our labour, the extraordinary and technological achievement of medicines that counter the pandemic that rages across the human world, is restricted and limited by capitalism, state, and rapacity. The robot-like figures of the painting are for me the embodiment of these closed and inhuman forces of power.
At heart I am a revolutionary... Someone who fights for a better future, but my fight is neither aggressive nor adversarial. My fight is to slowly, passionately, and persistently persuade others of the importance of placing cooperation, compassion, and love above all else. An endless pursuit that gives purpose in a human world replete with sceptics and cynicism...
Two extracts from the full size artwork are followed by an extract from 'Metropolis, The Fruits of Our Labour', the large flat foundation of the completed artwork.