Tate Modern’s Pierre Bonnard Exhibition, the Colour of Memory has been one of my high points of the last year. Some much loved old favourites like his Bol Du Lait were on show, but there was one new painting I kept returning to that I just couldn’t get out of my head, his Venus De Cyrene. It is named after the book that is lying on the tabletop, but it is more about the vase of flowers and the overall space than the book. Like many of Bonnard’s paintings its spatial cues are ambiguous: are we looking down at a carpet beyond the tabletop or at a view through a balcony window on the left? What is that strange orange object top right? Is that a small figure pushing a pram on the street below or a figure in the carpet pattern just above the rim of the vase?
I found this spatial ambiguity and the strange colour relationships absolutely compelling, and in the end I decided to use it as a staring point for a painting of my own. It developed in slightly unexpected directions following various summer conversations on Bonnard, moving house across continents and bird migrations. The painting now lives in the house of old friends in San Fransisco so has been on quite a journey of its own.
Venus De Cyrene by Bonnard:
The Start of my painting Migrations:
My finished painting: