“Two major series that were to define his career” Edward Lucie-Smith.
‘Sailing to Byzantium’, inspired by the Yeats poem, was begun in 1989, and after four years these themes were developed further in ‘Byzantium’. This was an enormous undertaking on a vast scale, with many multi-sectioned oil paintings, often designed to combine in various ways to fit the architecture of the five large venues in which they were exhibited. In one case they were hung to cover the ceilings as well as the walls.
“The initial ideas developed from a desire to create a piece of work for a special site and make the paintings an integral part of that space. The second stage was to decide on a theme for the work. I had used the title of ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ for a painting done some years ago and it seemed that this title and the poem by W.B.Yeats had the potential to make the idea stimulating enough to sustain a body of work over a long period. The intention was not to illustrate the poem, but to use it as an inspiration and spring board…..The work for the first exhibition started with many preliminary drawings and colour studies in order to try and get a feel for the whole space and try to visualise how the paintings would work together. I decided to paint the panels in a sequence beginning with the building of a ship and including many things that the ship would carry…….The work represents a mixture of abstract ideas and personal recollections, feelings and memories.” Dave Pearson on ‘Sailing to Byzantium’
“After finishing the work for ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ it didn’t take long to decide that going back to doing single paintings would prove to be dull in comparison. The idea of doing a trilogy occurred. It would develop the idea of creating paintings for specific sites.
“The titles for each part of the trilogy would be ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Jerusalem’. Byzantium would be Manchester. I did a lot of drawings and some studies in oils and started some large paintings with this theme in mind. After the third painting I changed the approach. I wanted it to be freer and more open – taking images from wherever I pleased and not being constricted by too tight a theme.
“Listening to James Joyce’s Ulysses on the radio gave me the confidence to put quite different ideas together that could still work as a whole. Byzantium is a continuation of the first exhibition with, I hope, a more developed and expressive use of colour, and a more inventive use of form……A general plan of the whole exhibition was worked out – then the large paintings were begun. ‘The Arrival’, ‘Bridge St’, ‘Sackville St’ were completed, on the Manchester theme. The ‘Café Scene’, first conceived at this time, was redeveloped much later…..After doing these 3 large paintings, I then scrapped the idea of relating everything to Manchester. I went back to drawing. Then the Tree theme developed and became an obsession for quite a long time.” Dave Pearson on ‘Byzantium’