"You, Me, And The War" is an arresting 36" x 48" oil on canvas piece that commands immediate attention. At first glance, the viewer is met with a bold composition defined by the interplay of vibrant, multivariable colors and stark contrasts.
The left side of the painting is dominated by a fierce display of fire, rendered in brilliant hues, setting an intense mood. Its powerful, almost violent presence offers a stark juxtaposition to the serene beauty of the forest scene. Dominating the center is a magnificent tree, symbolizing perhaps resilience or the passage of time. Its form, grand and detailed, holds the viewer's gaze and adds depth to the composition.
Contrastingly, to the right, the painting offers a sense of calm and hope. The viewer's eye is drawn to a beautiful body of water, its surface glistening and reflecting the surroundings. Above it, a faint double rainbow emerges — a universally recognized symbol of hope, promise, or transformation.
The top portion of the painting introduces an element of the sublime. Smoke from the fire mingles with dark clouded colors, creating an ominous overhead. However, this darkness is punctuated by a radiant silver glow — perhaps the sun — beaming from the top right corner, where it intersects with the rainbows. This addition of light, both in its hue and thematic symbolism, introduces a nuanced layer to the narrative, perhaps suggesting that even in the aftermath of destruction, there is beauty and hope.
The texture in the painting, a quality inherent to oil mediums, amplifies the sensory experience. One can almost feel the rough bark of the tree, the heat of the flames, and the cool tranquility of the water. The rhythm in the painting is evident in the repeated patterns of the flames, leaves, and ripples in the water, guiding the viewer's eye throughout the canvas.
Thematically, "You, Me, And The War" could be a narrative piece, telling a story of conflict, resilience, and hope. Its title invites interpretation — is the war a literal one, or does it allude to internal battles, environmental crises, or societal conflicts? The setting, a forest with both fiery destruction and water's tranquility, hints at cycles of life, destruction, and rebirth, making it resonate with universal themes.
The balance in this artwork is masterful. The intense fire on the left is counteracted by the calming waters on the right, with the massive tree acting as a fulcrum in the center. Emphasis is used strategically, with the vibrant fire and the serene double rainbow drawing the most attention.
In its entirety, "You, Me, And The War" is not just a visual feast but a thought-provoking exploration of contrasts — between destruction and beauty, despair and hope, chaos and tranquility. It's a testament to the power of art to convey complex themes and evoke profound emotions.
MICHAEL PRETTYMAN is a contemporary artist and scholar of comparative religion. He has been a maker his entire life. He is permanently at home in his work, creating a sprawling body of paintings, essays and lectures that bring together his interests in contemporary representational painting within the corpus of world wisdom texts and ideas found in cross-cultural eschatological traditions. Michael’s art practice is concerned with postmodern iterations of classic representational painting as informed by esoteric spiritual practice and study. He pursues his material practice as a meditation, whether it is in drawing, painting or sculpture. He has trained in classical drawing, painting and sculpture at The School of Visual Art, the New York Academy of Art and received advanced instruction in thangka painting at the Tsering School of Art in Kathmandu, Nepal. He has studied Tibetan Buddhist meditation and thangka painting in India, Nepal and in monasteries in Massachusetts and New York. He has a master’s degree in theology from the Harvard Divinity School. He has exhibited drawings and paintings in New York, Hong Kong, Barcelona and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
He has permanent mural installations in the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Botanical Gardens, The Bronx Zoo, and St. John’s Church. Michael teaches Religion and the Visual Arts at Hunter College in New York City, and lectures widely on creativity, spiritual practice, mysticism and ideas of the divine. He is currently working on a book about creativity and spiritual practice, as well as body of paintings addressing the Anthropocene Sublime. He lives and works in New York City.