Tangled Latticework of Fire-escapes
By John Colles

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Year
2013
Media
Oil Painting
Subject Matter
Urban and Architectural
Reg. Number
P1494
Size
122 x 90 cm

The painting is of a staircase flanked between two buildings. The foreground has a door slightly ajar in deep red crimson colour with hues of browns. Next to the door a fire escape ascends, which diminishes as it goes higher. The fire-escape catches the attention of the viewer since it is creates a very unusual tangled pattern or as the title suggests ‘tangled latticework’. It also gives the illusion of a three dimension, which is achieved by the using variety of lighter and darker shades of red and black by the artist. Another reason for this effect is the diminishing factor of the fire escape as it reaches the top story of the building. One of buildings flanking the fire-escape seems to be slanting as if falling on the stair and the fire escape being its support, preventing it from falling. The artist has painted the building with small brush strokes using hues of blue and yellow. Another interesting thing to note in the painting is that none of the windows of the building are proportionate; they vary in size and dimension creating a disharmony and asserting the confusion which the tangle lattice of fire-escape also causes. The building however on the right side of the fire escape is relatively straight with proportionate and relatively aligned windows creating diversity. If you look closely at window you can see a person staring outside the window. The artist tends to play expertly with lights and colours to create a realistic yet very creative image of the tangled fire escape.

This painting is based on both the reality of a fire-escape in Edinburgh and 'The Glass Menagerie', a play by Tennessee Williams. The fire-escape in the painting plays a symbolic role representing both the entrapment that Laura, the young woman in the play feels as a result of her shyness, (triggered by the physical disability of lameness) and the possibility of escape.

John says that he is "especially interested in paintings with a strong narrative content and the representation of human experience and behaviour through the framed equivalent of a poem, story or play." If he had to name two paintings that have inspired him, they would be Cezanne's 'Card Players' and Picasso's 'Guernica'.

John spent many years working with light and colour through the invention and development of medical devices based on optics and more particularly, lasers. Throughout his career, He has expressed his creativity principally through invention and problem solving. However he was always interested in art as an observer and went on a gradual journey of becoming an artist. He attended several part-time continuing education courses at Edinburgh College of Art until 2008, when he decided to take a more serious interest in becoming an artist. He joined the group of Carol Taylor, a former teacher at Edinburgh College of Arts in 2009. In 2010 John Colles came to Ullapool, along with his wife, for portfolio preparation at Bridges House of Art, which helped him in getting admission at Leith School of Art. He has also worked as an honorary lecturer at the University of St Andrews in Fife, where he taught the MSc course on Creativity and Invention. This led to a transition from scientist to artist and a return to light and colour but through painting and a more emotionally driven route.

John says - "I cannot point to a single eureka moment that led me towards practising art, rather it has been a gradual but strengthening process and I am now fully committed to being an artist."

At the age of 71 John Colles was Joint Winner of the Art in Healthcare Purchase Prize, Leith School of Art End of Year Exhibition 2013.

"...I am 71 bodily and somewhat less mentally!" says John

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