My paintings are figments of fantastical imaginary worlds situated within realms, which allude to our own existence. The imagery I use comprises unravelling narratives, which display splayed visions and altered expressions of the world around us. Themes stemming from theological backgrounds have direct imagery taken from the Book of Genesis and the Book of Revelations.
I attempt to create a new space and time within the painting, asking the audience to question what they see and from where they are seeing it. Reference to land mass, ancient civilisations and past times both guides and allows you to recognise or to believe that life, humanity, creation, death and destruction have occurred. Time is lapsed and distorted with monumental symbolism; the landscapes create a discourse, which encompasses theory, fact and fiction all linked with the apocalyptic force of nature itself. Stories of myth and legend play a huge part in how she builds her worlds in paint.
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Musings on dream worlds, utopias and sublime imagery
Many artists feel that there is an inherent desire or need to explore the notion of a utopian world within their practice. My own development and artistic learning is driven by an acute fascination with the alluring reminder of our own vulnerability in time and space. When painting I imagine glimpsing into a variety of fractured futures, portals leading to bad dreams born from destruction and decay but from which stem harmonious beauty, a calmness ready for a new life and a new order.
Cultures vastly remote from one another throughout the ancient civilisations have produced thinkers, artists and philosophers who have in one way or another all looked to the dream of an earthly paradise, to a land of peace and plenty, a far away ideal past/ present/future the descriptions and adaptations of which still resonate today. From creation comes life, comes death, comes chaos and destruction, comes peace: cyclical and infinite.
This series of paintings aim to invite and entice the viewer’s power of imagination, it’s a challenge, an attempt to coerce a shift in their perspective and thought. Could sublime imagery pertaining to the idea of ruination, of our familiar landscape and its certain end, provoke a change in consciousness towards, for example, climate change? The knowledge and anxiety of our ultimate demise, the idea and certainty of an apocalyptic event has enticed us into existing in this ‘Paradise Lost’ kind of realm. Sublime power of awe-inspiring vistas like mountain ranges; glacial passes; volcanic eruptions are all present within these works to order to harness that feeling of sinking anxiety.
Is the reality of our world just another illusion? Does the dream become myth; are myths conscious dreams of a higher order?
For the Pre-Homeric Greeks dreams were seen as visitations from God; they came as direct messages, as insights transforming to prophesy. They were seen as visions, imagined worlds, realms, physical depictions of life homologous to the world right here in front of us. I would hope that, like an uncomfortable dream, my paintings leave a palpable uncertainty with people. Depicted is the marvelous conception, the beauty of nature, a scene that alludes to or is waiting for the tumultuous catastrophe to ensue. They project a hybrid formation of what is real and what isn’t: where and when does this reality end and the other begin, or does it ever?
These images and artist statement were first published in Red Wedge #5, “Bad Dreams.” Purchase a copy here.
Olivia Mansfield studied for a Foundation Diploma in Fine Art at Central Saint Martin’s Byam Shaw School of Art before completing her BA (Hons) in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University in 2012. She has been living and working in London as a freelance artist/illustrator and teacher. See more of her work at her website.