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"Firescape" - (pastels on board)
by Rodney Swansborough




















The pastel painting is called “Firescape”  with the deliberate use of the puns on ‘fire’ and ‘escape’ and ‘scape’ as in fire scape like landscape….etc


I have deliberately stylized it as naïve realism…..as the subject matter is too frightening and confronting to be painted in emphatic realism. Most of my portraiture and many of my other works are done in absolute realism, although frequently in an expressionistic style.


The pastel painting "Firescape", is deliberately symbolic and contain motifs of anguish trauma and despair within the faces and the setting….and the brightness and use of luscious colours simply adds to the contradictions of a real fire-scape where the amazing colours of flames and the whiteness of ash combine to create an energetic brilliance and quiet sofness of their own. Both related and contrasting elements.

People are to be drawn to this colourful energy and then confronted and alarmed at the subject matter – a family being torched and tormented by the inescapable – the horrific energy and invading brilliance of light and heat….and colour…..adding surrealism and making the whole work inherently contradictory.


The viewers become like spectators looking at something they should turn away from….and as voyeurs allowing themselves the secret and discreet (dis)pleasure of being tantalized by the taboo of witnessing the innocent being totally  and agonizingly annihilated and cremated.


I had a whole family of friends lost in the Victorian Bushfires…..trying to escape…..and left helpless amidst the ravaging flames. A family who had no escape….and who experienced with each other their own cremation.


The pastel painting is unashamedly provocative and paradoxical……the terror of such beauty…..the horror of such luscious colour…..and we as viewers to be confronted with the agony the family faced….and like them wanting to escape……turn away…..run from the horror….but unlike them we can escape this fire but are left with it images .s