Thursday, 25 June 2015 by Sarah Butler
Summer is upon us so what better way to embrace the sunshine than with Customer Services and Special Collections Assistant, Helen Price's dazzling 'Staff Pick'?
Image: Norman Adams, Birds, 1971, acrylic and crayon, (c) Estate of the Artist
I love colour, and Norman Adams' Birds is an absolute masterpiece of colour and vibrancy. The gold, yellows and blues simultaneously burst out of the screen while also drawing your eye inwards to the centre. The shimmering gold and splashes of orange in the top right-hand corner crackle like solar flares and produce a warmth which tantalises the senses we might not normally associated with visual art.
The colours work with the squiggled lines to form the impressionistic image of individual birds in flight. The effect creates a wonderful sense of movement and captures the exhilarating action of flocking birds. It is as though you are looking into a kaleidoscope which gradually turns, shifting its colours and patterns with each rotation of the lens.
The shapes of the birds also resemble ripples on water. As your eyes are drawn to the centre of the image, the peripheries morph into an aquatic scene. All of a sudden you are gazing into the dark blue depth of a deep ocean, while, on the edges, the sun's rays gently illuminate the surface water.
Norman Adams had a keen interest in the effect of perspective in visual art. He was known to be a fan of the trompe l'oeil technique, where the eye is deceived into thinking a two dimensional image is three dimensional. Adams' Birds does not specifically employ this technique, in fact, the dark blue straight lines towards the edges of the painting seem to frame the image and serve as a reminder that this is a two dimensional work of art. At the same time, the painting works to break through the two dimensional barrier. The birds are not confined by these lines and seem to traverse effortlessly across them. To me, it is wonderfully easy to imagine these birds continuing their flight, freeing themselves from the painting and soaring out into the space beyond.