It depicts five women from the Chinese Imperial Court. While their tunics embody symbolic elements of time and good luck charms, their faces reflect expectation and uncertainty in a time of transition – the theme of the series, a theme that could, in fact, be applied to any of the world’s great civilizations before the turn of the twentieth century.
Three of the women really existed, as I have used photographs of real Chinese women from the period. To bring them to life on canvas is a genuine thrill. Their faces look out to you with curiosity and intrigue, the luxuriousness of their clothing, their hair ornaments, and their jewellery reflect a time long gone but still so recent. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that they only lived a little over a century ago.
Typically, I’ve been influenced by Klimt and the images of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora from the 6th Century Byzantine mosaics from San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. This influence is reflected in the rendering of the women’s tunics but their faces will always be realistic, with their lips painted in makeup to resemble the lusciousness of cherries”.