‘Butterfly’ is my attempt to visualise the three virtues of truth, beauty and goodness, otherwise known as the Transcendentals or Platonic Triad. Since ancient times these concepts have been thought to be of profound importance, the bedrock of what gives our lives value and meaning and I felt this was both a daunting and worthwhile challenge.
I recalled the Gill quote, “Look after goodness and truth and beauty will take care of themselves” and Kant stating that “Beauty is truth, truth is beauty” and these point to the idea that these virtues are inseparable in some sense.
Much of my personal work for many years has been an exploration of beauty, so I was hopeful that in attempting to create something beautiful, perhaps truth and goodness might follow naturally.
I’m extremely interested in symmetry and its relationship with harmony and beauty. A symmetrical foundation for the piece made immediate sense to me, and I couldn’t help but think of the bilateral symmetry of the butterfly, a perennial favourite subject for artists.
The subtext in this piece is environmental. The Butterfly in all its delicate beauty symbolises our planet, the wings visualise two clearly delineated themes, culture and nature, or humanity and the natural world.
To represent culture I’ve drawn from our rich collective history, symbols and iconography from around the world, from the earliest cave drawings to Babylonian and Egyptian iconography, to Medieval and Renaissance ornamental design, to modern symbols depicting internet culture and logos. To represent nature I’ve depicted a floral vine leaf ornamental design, populated by an eclectic range of animals, everything from birds to monkeys to foxes, rabbits and deer.
This creates unified contrast which I think is often a key element of beauty. Think of how two complementary typefaces, or weights of the same typeface, often work so much better than one in a layout, or why the great writing masters of 18th century London often juxtaposed fine, flowing formal scripts with bold angular blackletter forms.
It has been said that artists often seek to create order from chaos. Recent times have been nothing if not chaotic. In ‘Butterfly’ I’m trying to visualise a beautiful reconciliation, a balancing and harmonising of our currently fraught and destructive relationship with the flora and fauna of this beautiful and fragile planet.
Butterfly - Print Specifications
The colourway shown above has sold out, but a beautiful new edition of 'Butterfly' in gold and black is available to buy at 4 pm GMT today in my online store.