Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pluto, God of the Underworld

This is the final posting for my Planets Suite making eleven in total.

Like Apollo (the Sun), Artemis (the Moon), and Gaia (the Earth), Gustav Holst didn’t write music for Pluto since by the time it had been discovered in 1930, a year before his death, Holst had become so disillusioned by the great popularity of his Planets Suite he felt at the expense of all his other work.
I, unfortunately, have no such inhibitions.

As with all previous planetary entries I start with the planet itself.

Discovered in 1930 by the astronomist, Clyde W Tombaugh, Pluto is in fact a ‘binary dwarf’ meaning along with its largest moon, Charon, the barycentre of their orbits does not lie within either body. Together they also have another two moons, Nix and Hydra:

And it was these four together that led me to the concept of a four-piece rock band, and the Fab Four in particular - the Beatles. I thought of the two conjoined principals like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and the two moons as George and Ringo. And potentially the Ringo’s base drum doubling as the planet disc:

The Beatles

But it was my research on the mythology of Pluto that began to lead me in a slightly different direction.

Pluto, (or Hades in Greek) was the Roman god of the underworld. And he must have been a bit of a sad-sack since he was loveless (aww). In order to bring love to him Venus sent her son Amor (Cupid) to shoot him with one of his arrows (hooray!). This caused Pluto to seek out a lover and coming across Prosperina (Persephone), his neice (from his brother Jupiter and Ceres) bathing at a pool he did the dastardly caveman thing and abducted her, taking her to Hades as his wife and queen.

But since Pluto is also the god of the dead, of infernal regions, of the terminally ill, and those wounded in battle, I began to think that the Beatles were too clean an image and therefore the band should be more gothic or heavy metal.
Or even punk.
This in turn led me to a post-punk band called "The Naked and the Dead" which absolutely hit the mark for me. Talk about Cupid’s arrow of love? This was a marriage made in Hades!:

The Naked and the Dead Sketches
Pencil in sketchbook, A6x5.
Sketched from their My Space and other internet pages.

And from these six sketches came the final concept:

Pencil in sketchbook, A6x2.

Which, in turn, was translated into a black and white study:

White chalk on black card, A4.

Refined and developed further:

Overlaid and defined with some colour:

Figure shapes developed:

Happy with this scheme I then started in oils placing the figures with titanium white over a previous ‘failed’ painting (I think it was an attempt at Venus):

Lots of texture and flecks of colour showing through.

Final Painting
Oils on canvas, 42x61.
This is the only painting of my Planets Suite to be in landscape format. I couldn’t conceive it any other way.
And it is also the least perfectly painted. Or perhaps the most perfectly painted?
Most perfect and most appropriate to the post-punk underworld cancerous subject of death and rotting corpses!

What a fitting way to end on.

Postscript: The band could be called “The Plutonics” and their band logo, seen on the bass drum is, of course, Walt Disney’s puppy dog, Pluto. What else?

1 comment:

Laurel Kornfeld said...

Colin Matthews did compose a movement for Pluto in 2000, called "Pluto, the Renewer," which is often played to complete Holst's Planets Suite.