Gateway To The Americas

Gateway To The Americas was on show at the University of Stirling as part of the Forth Valley Open Studios 2013 'Showcase' exhibition, 25th May to 31st July.

Inspiration for this painting has been drawn from my interest in the history of exploration and discovery and a real passion for travel. With French ancestors who ventured across oceans in search of a new life in India over two centuries ago, perhaps it's no surprise that I'm drawn towards all things exotic!

Narrative

Having crossed an ocean, enduring hardship, hunger, illness, and disease, it would have been a most welcome site to catch your first glimpse of land. Through the morning mist your vision begins to focus on what appears to be exotic palm trees lining the shoreline of the Americas. As the ship draws closer, the mist begins to lift and suddenly you are overwhelmed beyond words by what confronts you..........a line of gigantic, awe-inspiring, breathtaking pineapples, stretching as far as the eye can see from north to south and beyond the horizon. A gateway into the Americas..........a welcome into the New World..........a testament and memorial perhaps to Christopher Columbus! Or does the sheer scale of them appear foreboding or suggest something less welcoming….......guardians to an unfamiliar place! Furling the sails and dropping anchor you stand wide-eyed in wonder at the vision you see before you. The sound of silence is broken by the sudden cry of a tropical bird which soars above you in all its glory. Vivid colours beyond your imagination offer a glimpse of the exotic that may await on the other side. Lured by its beauty you venture forth beyond the gateway to bear witness to a whole new world..........and on your return, what will you tell others..........the exact truth of what you saw and experienced or fanciful stories where the truth becomes distorted making way for the birth of myth and legend!

Home now, on a cold, damp, wet winter's day, sitting in a dark, candlelit corner of a country tavern, in familiar surroundings that have never felt so unfamiliar, your mind struggles with the distinction between reality and fantasy. Either way, will anyone believe you or understand what you bore witness to! Thus, the realisation sets in of just how much your adventure at sea has irreversibly changed your life and relationship with kith and kin..........overcome with loneliness and isolation and feeling far removed from the present, your thoughts begin to drift back to life at sea as you close your eyes in contemplation of yet another journey across vast oceans and beyond.

'The Pineapple' 

Circumnavigating the globe twice during a career in the airlines, I can only begin to imagine and appreciate the sheer magnitude of attempting this by ship at a time when much of the world was still uncharted. To undertake such a perilous journey meant risking lives and often venturing into the unknown. It would have been a life-changing experience for those fortunate enough to return and on their return many stories would have been told and retold, some true and others perhaps coloured by fanciful ideas and myth. The weird and wonderful sites, exotic foods, flora, fauna and native people that these adventurers bore witness to must have been beyond the wildest dreams of most Europeans. One such exotic food brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus in 1493 was the 'Pine of the Indians' or better known as the Pineapple, which became a symbol of wealth, status and power for those who afforded the luxury of bringing them back from foreign lands. Pineapples were often placed on their gateposts as a sign that guests were being received now that they were home from the colonies. It has since been adopted by artists, architects and craftsmen and incorporated into their work. The pineapple was also known to have properties which helped fight scurvy, a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C which claimed many lives at sea. Therefore, sailors often kept a stock aboard ship. Beyond this though, it is simply delicious!