September 2018



Morning Star

Morning Star
2016, acrylic on canvas, 66 x 48 in.


Morning Star


The idea for Morning Star came primarily from the synthesis of three basic factors, the inclusion of a window or portal motif, the use of architectural elements, and the musical composition, Morning Star, by Arvo Part.

In past work I have used the window motif many times, most notably in Window of Seven Tears, 2004. This motif has been a way to depict not only distinct spaces in compositions, but also to give viewers a glimpse into another world. In Morning Star the star-shaped window allows one to see beyond the dark and foreboding world in the foreground to a distant transcendent space that contains a stylized morning star hovering above the horizon of a calm blue sea. This relationship accentuates the qualities and characteristics of both worlds while adding to the visual dynamics in the painting.




Morning Star
2016, acrylic on canvas, 66 x 48 in.


Window of Seven Tears
2004, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 in.

The architectural element that dominates Morning Star is based on traditional stellar vaulting used in ecclesiastic buildings. In this context it mimics the structure of the morning star and in doing so creates a proportional and spatial relationship between the two, thereby giving the picture a sense of depth. At the intersections of the vault ribs, where bosses (ornamental decorations) are normally placed, I have substituted flowers and ropes. The flowers are white and create a visually compelling relationship with the morning star while the blood red ropes form crosses alluding to the Passion of Christ. Leafed vines form an oval and weave there way along the outer points of the inner star of the architectural structure. They symbolize the idea of how we are all inextricably bound to nature. At the top and bottom the vines entangle two severed hands and feet, which all have flames rising from stigmata. They, together with a stylized crown-of-thorns in the shape of an endless knot where a head should be, reference Christ's crucifixion. In the lower left and right the vines also entangle a pair of three arrows. These serve to balance the composition as well as symbolize the holy trinity.

During the time I was creating Morning Star it was a happy coincidence to find and listen to Arvo Part's short musical composition, Morning Star, 2007. I was also pleased to find that Part used the following text from a prayer above the tomb of St. Bede in Durham Cathedral.


"Christ is the morning star, who when the night of this world is past brings to his saints the promise of the light of life and opens everlasting day."


Until I heard Part's composition I was unaware of Christ being referenced as the morning star. Subsequently I also found the following biblical reference in Revelation 22:16.


"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."


In my artist statement, Philosophic, Spiritual and Religious Content, I describe the integrative approach I take to the themes of philosophy, spirituality and religion in my work. That is depicting them as studies that occur at the juncture of their becoming each other and not as separate or standalone themes. As such I have tried to create a balance between them and not stress one above the other. To that end, in terms of religion, I have attempted to minimize both the use of specific religious imagery and allusions to religious iconography.

As I was creating Morning Star however I was confronted with a work that stressed religious content over philosophy and spirituality. Realizing that my integrative approach was out of balance in this particular piece I pondered how to resolve the issue. In doing so I remembered past experiences when I tried to deny creative freedom because of a set approach and how that approach ultimately failed. Because of those lessons I concluded that, at least in this case, that I needed to go against my established approach and expand the creative potential of my work to include a wider range of philosophical, spiritual and religious content.

- Brian Mains, 2018