"Shakespeare's Children" - new work

Welcome to my blog page! It's been a few months since I launched my website and I've been meaning to start the blog for some time but always found some excuse or other.....yeah yeah yeah...it's almost like the fear of the blank canvas all over again so lets just get on with it...new work is the topic for today.  

There has been a lot of focus on Shakespeare this year with the 400 year anniversary of his death and the idea for a new series of work came from the brief set for a book art exhibition. Not really understanding what "book art" was I eventually decided not to submit any work but some of the research I had started sparked off an idea for a series of paintings based on Shakespearean characters (his literary children) but before we come to know them through his plays and specifically as children or young adults. 

"Hamlet" seemed like the obvious place to start for me. It's considered one of Shakespeare's greatest works (and also the most performed) and it is quite familiar to me having studied it at both school and university and seen many performances on both stage and screen....and I didn't really have to do a lot of research about these two characters. 

For the painting of Ophelia I was quite inspired by portrayals of Elizabeth I and wanted her to be quite regal, which is why I was drawn to this huge black ruff and a bird mask. Although "Hamlet" is not associated with masks or masquerade balls like "Romeo and Juliet" I felt it was dramatic and mystical enough to suggest her future state of melancholy and madness. I've also been working on a series called "Kindred Spirits" so I think the idea of spirit animals was still in my head. We don't know much about Ophelia from the play but there seems a shortage of female characters around (hence the inappropriate black ruff) and certainly no one for her to confide in so I can imagine her having to entertain herself and running around like a bit of free and wild spirit. 

Ophelia, oil on linen, 711x813mm (work in progress)

Ophelia, oil on linen, 711x813mm (work in progress)

Hamlet is portrayed as being younger than Ophelia so the two paintings are not connected in terms of timelines. He is a young boy of 5 or 6 years and untouched by his tragic future and yet in all of his innocence he also seems to carry the weight of the world on this shoulders. There isn't much else going on in this painting except another ruff which was my favourite thing to paint. My interpretation of Hamlet is that, after faking madness, he really did go mad as would any of us if we returned from university to find our mother had married our dead father's brother and the ghost of the father came to us in an apparition and told us he had been murdered by the uncle. I don't really see how he had many choices except to try and prove his uncle's guilt without endangering his own life.  So I'm guessing Hamlet was quite an intense child and maybe not as free spirited as Ophelia. 

Hamlet, Oil on linen, 760 x 510 mm (detail)

Hamlet, Oil on linen, 760 x 510 mm (detail)

Next up - I'm working through some ideas for Cordelia (King Lear), which I know nothing about, and maybe the relationship between Juliet and Rosaline (Romeo and Juliet). 

These two paintings will be part of my open studio exhibition (10-13th November) at the Wimbledon Art Studios (studio 295) so please do come and visit our lovely artist community! You can see more work in progress on my social media sites. Until next time here's a song called Ophelia by The Lumineers,  Angela x