Gladiator is one of my all-time favourite movies, it is just a truly spectacular film! It has been on the list to do right back since 2016. I always had in my head that it would be a silhouetted character rising up from the colosseum, surrounded by olive trees that were breaking through the crumbling stones, a very spiritual piece. There was an image that I did a good number of years back entitled ‘Now you’re free’ that many would never have associated with the movie, and it was great that the collector who bought it, did so for the sentiment. The sense of finally being set free from restrictions, a female figure made entirely from butterflies, walking through the fields towards a house set within the Tuscan countryside. It had a very similar concept but done in a totally different way.
For ‘Strength & Honour’, this was a chance to do something much more blatant towards the movie’s aesthetics. The original plan was to make it much more dramatic, with raging lions and battles but what you now see is how my mind works, how I interpret a subject from a spark that resonates within the narrative of the film and how I find a connection. I guess that is what makes me so different to another with a similar skillset who will take the piece in a different direction. It is the mind that makes it.
Again, it all comes back to this sense of being set free from restriction, from being kept away from your family, being enslaved, forced to fight for what you do and don’t believe in. Maximus’s battles are all laid out before you before ultimately being set free, albeit through his death. It was the part of the film that really struck a chord, amplified by the haunting soundtrack. Music has always played a key role in my work; I remember years back trying to find the particular songs were and that was the days before ‘Spotify’ where everything is now ‘on tap’. It was great to listen to the same songs on repeat, immediately after watching the movie and throughout creating what you now see. Without doubt, it amplifies everything that I strived to inject into this scene.
What you see is Maximus’s journey from start to finish, with all the details from his battles displayed. A crumbling, broken amphitheatre opens out to reveal his family home beneath the beauty of the Tuscan landscape. A truly beautiful scene, the lighting is stunning, the colours are beautiful, I absolutely love it! Probably the most wonderful detail is the three white horses that gallop into view. These represent Maximus, his wife and his son who are now reunited in the afterlife and free to roam. It is a classic example of how details are born during creating a piece from being completely immersed in the emotion of what you are building. I love the concept that if you are stood there looking at this scene a split second before or after you would have missed such an incredible sight. It injects a quality of movement against the static, contrasting against the objects laid out on the ground, even down to the tiger just stood and staring rather than looking menacing. This huge animal has no battles left to fight; it is one of my favourite parts of the piece.
I absolutely love how it has come together, I love the Bougainvillea flowers that creep into view, a plant that reminds me of Menorca and one that I still grow in my studio, just! The fallen rose petals link to the final fight scene of the movie, falling through the sky adds to the sense of movement before coming to rest. There are so many subtle, beautiful details in this image. It is one that you really need to stand there in front of it, to embrace the spirit of the movie and the underlying meaning that I believe will resonate with many for many a different reason. I guess I am realising that even more now that so many people collect my work for the sentiment that the piece embodies rather than just the love for the movie itself.
As soon as I hung the original work on the wall for photographing, I knew I was going to really miss it and I do, I bloody miss it! It is an incredibly powerful image that I have loved every minute of being involved with and I am so proud of what this piece represents.