I got interested in finish line images from horse races recently, as they are contradictory, in that they define what part of a horse crosses the line first but the images created stretch and distort the animal in motion. I was reminded of the late 19th century Muybridge photographic sequence studies of horses in motion, which was the key analysis and proof of the placement of horses legs when running.
I then built a canvas form to mirror the length of the finish straight, and the image.
Now the fun bit, as I built up a series of paint layers to form a deep surface in cross section. I toned the surface to build colour similarity and stripiness, from the camera images with texture to accentuate that. That gives me empty grass.
The difficult bit is getting the images in in some way- so I didn’t take up a paint brush but instead a scalpel and excised sections, much like a woodblock print leaving dark areas and creating a white space below (painting by subtraction):
I have then done a few more horses to capture the racing field and the distorted forms, the next image is a bit more of the work in progress (with scalpels in foreground):
The work in progress was then finished with cutting around the back corner to add following horses and cutting in a finish line. The next step is to complete the painting, with a finish line sliced in and then adding a glaze and wax to give different sheens to areas and to fill the cut horses with a gloss glaze to emphasise them and make the whole cohere.
Now I have been thinking about the title for the work- my art history suggested “Ucello wins the Muybridge handicap” but I feel that’s a bit obscure as most won’t know the “Battle of San Romano” by Ucello and his hobbyhorses like horses. An old family joke about a telegram from Grandpa from the race track also suggests a title of the punch line: “System working well. Please send more money”.