To celebrate the Art of the Olympians (AOTO) and Al Oerter Foundation’s (AOF) new partnership with the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) I wanted to create a new Olympic Rings inspired painting. This acrylic 36” x 60” painting called “Symbols on Ice” includes two sets of Olympic Rings – to represent the 1980 and 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. The four legacy sites and their respective symbols/logos are also embedded into the piece along with ORDA’s and AOF/AOTO’s logos. The overall design for this painting is an aerial view of the 1980 Lake Placid hockey ice rink where USA beat the USSR to win Olympic Gold.
Twenty 25 years ago this month – November 1997 – l painted my first Olympic Rings painting called “Struggle for Perfection”. Two years later, that very same painting won the United States Sports Academy /United States Olympic Committee Sport Art Competition and went on to represent the USA in a International exhibition in Lausanne in 2000 at the IOC museum, as part of the 2000 Sydney Olympics cultural events. This accomplishment led to the “The Olympic Picasso” media nickname (CNN interview).
My second Olympic Rings painting was done in the build up to the 2012 London Olympic & Paralympic Games ( Title: “2012 Rings” ) when I was working for the British government as an Olympic Sports Art Ambassador (BBC interview/article).
The third Olympic Rings painting was a 15 panel collaborative piece I did with 111 other Olympians (an unofficial world record) for the 2018 Olympic Art Project at the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang – some of the other Olympians included IOC President Bach, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and WOA President Joel Bouzou. (IOC article 1) (video) (2018 Pyeongchang OLYMPIC GAMES)
While my media nickname is “The Olympic Picasso” it is actually French artists, for the most part, that have had the most influence on my art.
To celebrates the 25-year anniversary of my first Olympic Rings painting l decided to create another one, my fifth to be exact, in this on-going series.
I think of this Olympic Ring series a little like Claude Monet’s Haystacks and Cathedral paintings that are painted at different times of the day and year so they capture a different feeling of light, color and temperature. For me, the Olympic Rings series is capturing me at moments in time on my continuing Olympic journey.
This latest work, called “Paris 2.024 /Together”, is a celebration of my Olympic journey and the summer Olympics Games in Paris in 2 years. It pays homage to French artists Henri Matisse and Georges Seurat as well of course to Pierre de Coubertin and the Olympic Rings logo he designed that is now one of the most recognized symbols in the world. The paper collage measures 60” H x 100” W pays tribute to Matisse’s paper cut outs and his “drawing with scissors” technique. I’ve taken his technique one step further though to “drawing with a knife” as I used an X-act.0 knife for all the cutting. Also, I did not use any glue. I developed a new collaging technique to create this work where I use only tape to attach the paper together – everything is attached from behind. I used over 1200 feet of masking tape to make this artwork.
In tribute to Seurat and his pioneering Neo-Impressionist Pointillism technique I broke down the Olympic Ring image into 24,000* coloured paper squares. *( 24,000 is a reference to the 24 in 2024). I took Seurat’s idea of using points of colour to create other colours and instead created coloured pixels and shapes that when optically over lap change colour and create the illusion of becoming solid, translucent or even transparent.
The collage uses 206 different coloured papers and has all 206 National Olympic Committee logos embedded throughout, sprinkled like dots of light as in Renoir’s “Dance at the Moulin de la Galette” painting.
One of my goals with this piece was to capture effort, time, passion – things that are hard to if not impossible to quantify.
l expand on the symbolism of the Olympic Rings with this piece and play with contrasts and contradictions:.
The medium for this piece is “Old School” / traditional if you will – It’s just bits of colored paper. The main image – the rings – is also “Old” but the way it has been constructed is new. The huge field of tens of thousands of coloured pixels give it a playful Lego feel but also a digital quality due to the QR code shapes and QR inspired images throughout the piece.
The goal and hopefully the result is an image that acknowledges the past, recognizes the present and looks to the future.
* Repetition of shapes, lines and colors, in all my work are in reference to being an athlete and what athletes do to reach their potential: repeat exercises, and movements to become stronger, faster, more flexible and more proficient at their chosen sport.
The 60” X 100”, 24,000 square paper collage is comprised of ten 30” X 20” panels, so the work can be displayed one of two ways:
1. They can be physically or digitally joined together to form a single image.
2. They can be physically or digitally displayed separately to form 10 images that connect to reveal the Olympic Rings
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