The Siren is the mythological ‘femme fatale’ who lures unwary sailors onto the rocks. In this painting, a field of barley symbolizes the fecund ocean of life’s journey. As in Homer’s Odyssey, the sailor must resist this alluring distraction in order to pursue his true path, but the encounter, as Jung informs us, is also an internal one between the Man and his inner Woman ; either way – he turns aside…
I have always enjoyed a tendency for willful juxtaposition of elements in my paintings, giving the effect of a kind of forced symbolism. In literature it would be called metaphor and can be deconstructed intellectually, but in painting it can excite the imagination in unexpected and unfathomable ways. The impulse to marry the boat and the field of barley comes from the beautiful effect we will all have seen, where the wind transforms these grasses to seem like the surface of a lake or sea. This actual field loomed out of the mist at me, one early dawn on a drive across Salisbury plain… I stood at the lonely roadside and marveled at it – never to be forgotten.
The figure of the Siren was inspired by the incredible grace (and flexibility) of Edwina, my favorite model of those years, moonlighting from her role as dancer at the Ballet Rambert.
Stylistically, this painting was the culmination of my pre-raphaelite tendencies, albeit with a strong dose of symbolism. I disciplined myself, like them, to copy faithfully from nature, actual objects and live models.