April 2018



The Dying Son

The Dying Son
2009, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 44 in.


The Dying Son


This painting follows my tradition of periodically creating minimal compositions instead of highly complex ones. In them I simplify not only the compositions but also other aspects of the picture like the space, colors, and light sources. I think of them as similar to a music composer writing a piece for piano and voice as opposed to one for a large symphony orchestra.

The title, The Dying Son, is intended to be a play-on-words. It is meant to allude, not only to a dying son, but also a dying sun. As such the painting depicts a male figure curled up in a ball, glowing and hovering in space like a celestial body - the sun. The light in the picture emanates from the center of the figure, which is also the center of the canvas. It is a fading light that symbolizes the slow death of the son/sun figure. The figure is in a fetal position. This represents not only the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth, but also a possible reaction of someone suddenly facing the horror of their own imminent mortality. The figure covers his ears and eyes in a vain attempt to hide from that reality. And in doing so prevents the viewer from seeing his identity, which in turn universalizes the figure and makes the image more timeless.

Another important aspect of the painting is the difference in, and the relationship between, the physical painterly textures of the background versus that of the figure. The background was under-painted with relatively thick speckled strokes that were then glazed to reveal a highly textured surface. The figure on the other hand was painted with thin carefully modulated strokes that create a smooth surface. This textural difference gives the impression of solidity to the background while making the figure seem much more ephemeral, fleeting, and impermanent hence reinforcing the idea of the figure's life fading away.

- Brian Mains, 2018