The frame for this artwork was a challenge for my metal worker, who heated up and beat a straight piece of steel angle-iron around a wooden form for eight hours until the desired oval shape was achieved. Two solid wood templates were destroyed in the process, but the result was beautiful. The surface effect was achieved with a grinder in order to create a visual link with the shiny metallic elements represented in the drawing. Clever technical innovations were required to attach the oval-shaped paper to its backing without the threat of subsequent wrinkling due to changes in humidity. The wooden element that spaces the acrylic sheet from the drawing was made from laminating thin strips of wood into the required elliptical shape. The oval composition was crucial to achieve a womb-like connotation, where the frame, the armour and the curled-up nature of the pose all serve as protection for the otherwise nude and vulnerable figure.


Curves and points interact in this image, combining sensuality and sexuality. Delicate ornate elements and deep shadows enrich the tableau. Partial concealment is vital to creating a mood of mystery and excitement. The soft point of a woman’s breast with its diffuse sheen is echoed by the sharp point of the elbow armour with its hard gleam. Flesh and steel can each be admired for their unique qualities and associations.


Before the oceans had been fully navigated and all of the earth’s land masses mapped out, only the imagination could give shape to what lay beyond the distant horizon. The strange sea creatures depicted in the oceans of old maps embody this mystery. This drawing incorporates those imagined expanses of water as a tribute to the oceans of the imagination in which all human consciousness swims. The stylized ways in which traditional Japanese artists have represented water inspired the wave patterns in this piece, and old maps produced by European cartographers and embellished with sea creatures influenced the stylized fish.


All images and texts © Frank Mulvey 2016, except where otherwise credited.

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