In helping me search for new and different painting subjects, a friend of mine recommended that I take a look at Heathrow Airport and it’s surrounding areas. An ongoing and integral theme of my work is a sense of place, so to visit one of the world’s busiest airports was an ideal and symbolic location, after all, an airport is - by its nature - a place to take us places.
Although I don’t personally care too much for air travel or waiting for hours in a departure lounge, I find the idea of exploring how an airport connects countless lives to countless places an enchanting one. It is this kind of sensibility that inspired me to visit and paint Heathrow. I was also inspired by the everyday workings of the place, from the roar of the planes as they took off and landed, to the unique livery of each of the airlines and the in-between logistics ensuring that the airport runs smoothly. I found that Heathrow Airport, with it’s many terminal buildings, is like a collection of hives.
The painting Heathrow Terminal 2 was an attempt to catch a such a glimpse. The viewpoint is seen from the top floor of the terminal building which gives the landscape an appearance reminiscient of a child’s set of toys. This is a landscape of functionality, concrete and tarmac. A plane can be seen in the background, taxiing in anticipation of a long flight ahead, reminding us that it is carrying real lives with hopes and dreams to a real destination. At this scale the plane takes on a zoomorphic quality. The painting’s portrait format was determined by the multi layered viewpoints in the composition. A challenge for me was in capturing the overall feel of the scene without adding too much detail, whilst being sufficiently informative of what is going on. I found the austere quality of the curved shapes of the buildings and structures were offset nicely by the dazzling bright reflections of the tarmac.
Just outside Heathrow sits the village of Longford. Planes can be perpetually seen flying over the rooftops at frighteningly close range, coming in to land, or just after take off, depending on the wind direction. Sadly the village is a condemned place as there are advanced proposals to demolish it completely to pave the way for a third airport runway. The painting Longford depicts an ordinary local street scene, with a large plane looming overhead, emphasising the coexistence with Heathrow. I cannot but feel an impending dread of what might be in store for Longford and it’s residents. History, however, has often witnessed the displacement of communities in the wake of large infrastructural projects, so it seems that this small village will be no exception.
Heathrow Airport not only challenged me to find and paint new subject matter, it also made me contemplate the idea of an airport as a place in it’s own right and the different facets and emotions that are contained and associated within it.