by Brett Lohn
This striking painting depicts the early stages of a race, as the horses settle on the bend towards the six furlong marker at Epsom Downs. The oppressive summer evening sky is heavy with threatening grey cloud as a shard of sunlight picks out the distant trees. Notice how the bay on the inside is struggling to maintain balance around the bend, whilst the grey is far more composed. To the left of the picture we can see a horse that is late out of the stalls and being given ‘the hurry up’ to settle towards the back of the field.
For me this painting is all about the visual balance between the horse and nature. Epsom Downs racecourse possesses some beautiful vistas, especially during those summer evening meetings when the light can lend great flair to the landscape. To then see a steady movement of boisterously coloured jockeys approaching, atop these powerful yet graceful animals, really brings a new dimension to the landscape. It is this relationship: the fact that a horse actually adds to the beauty of its surroundings, that I wanted to explore with this piece of art.
To convey movement in horses that are approaching the viewer head on presents an artistic challenge. I therefore chose to divide the canvas evenly between galloping horses and static rails. The precise vertical lines of the rails and their anaemic hue lend a visible contrast to the colourful horses, acting as a foil to accentuate the motion of their legs. Placing the horses so soon after a pronounced bend also teases the eye into seeing movement that isn't actually there.
I have divided the turf of the racecourse into two separate sections. The first is the ‘dolled off’ area to the right, where the railings have been moved out to protect the inside of the course. These railings indicate a bend even though we can’t actually see it. Equally the horses in the second section are staggered in their grouping, again hinting at the camber of the course. This means that although we are witnessing the horses ‘head on’ we do not feel as if they are coming directly towards us, adding to the feeling of movement.
The grass in the foreground of the painting is uninterrupted by rails or any other device. This mirrors the sky and gives the eye a chance to relax amid the unfolding action. This helps to draw our eye to the central horizontal line of the canvas and to make this piece of art so easy to look at. The horses and jockeys are the only part of the painting that connect the sky to the turf without interruption.
'Evening Thunder' is available to purchase from our shop as a limited edition print.