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Progressive Overdrive: oil on canvas, 110X110 cm

Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon on July 26th 1969 represents an event that will forever remain unique in history: the first time a human being stood on the surface of another celestial body. It will be one of the few moments that will still be discussed and celebrated in another fifty years, in another hundred years and, hopefully, even in another thousand years time.

Despite it having occurred over fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 Mission is a pinnacle of human engineering achievement. Indeed many would argue ‘over achievement’ as we have not returned since the last Apollo mission left the surface of the moon on 13th December 1973.

Progressive Overdrive is a study of the interior of the thrust chamber of an F-1 rocket engine. Five of these unprecedentedly powerful engines propelled the Saturn V booster launching the Apollo 11 spacecraft on its 1/4 million kilometre journey to the moon.

In Progressive Overdrive I chose ultramarine/lapis lazuli and gold for their historical religious/devotional associations in art. Lapis Lazuli was used by some of the most important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, including Masaccio, Perugino, Titian and Vermeer where these artists often reserved the colour for the clothing of the central figures of their paintings – typically the Virgin Mary.

The paintings of the Renaissance were often intended to inspire and educate the viewer with an understanding of the Christian world view – an often absolutist, dogmatic perspective at odds with the dynamic, evolving, evidence driven scientific world view that, ultimately, enabled us to walk on the moon.

My use of Lapis and gold takes this association and creates a devotional/inspirational work where the ‘religious’ object is a manifestation of progress – progress driven by our scientific understanding of the universe that lead to technological innovation which was then coupled with an extraordinary application of human effort.

Progressive Overdrive is an attempt to create an inspirational work that is at once dramatic and uplifting but also enigmatic and mysterious.


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