Blood and Gold

This painting was first conceived through the impact of 50s pop art. The rich colours mark their Indian influence. Yellow gold decorates the edges of the frame, the jewellery and the wedding sari.

Although the term Pop art is usually associated with the work of artists working in New York in the 1960s such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, the movement actually found its earliest voice in Britain a decade earlier. Still recovering from World War II, with a bankrupt population dependent on rations, the nation’s artists looked west to the new consumerist paradise being advertised in the prospering United States. British Pop art rose out of a strong outsider’s perspective as it looked both longingly and critically, yet with a healthy sense of irony, at the new visual imagery arising from this far off dream where everything from toasters to cars to beauty creams were placed on colorful pedestals in the glossy pages of magazines or touted on television in the hands of long legged beauty queens. It is within this idea that the face of our subject is divided, into contours, popular of todays beauty queens and the idealised image of a woman. Asian and Indian culture heavily promotes heavy make up during marriages and some of the time the whitening of the skin. This tradition has stemmed from colonisation, but also popularity through Bollywood. The eyeliners originating in early 60s Britain when my grandparents would have first arrived in Britain. Intertwining with early British Pop artists like Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake. All of whom began to borrow heavily from this ‘pop’ marketing language of post-War Americana, they initiated a significant movement away from the traditional parameters of what constituted art. This departure from tradition also extended to new techniques…breaking down previous orthodox distinctions between art and design, popular culture and high culture. The work also complemented, and often was intricately connected to, the energetic pop music scene, which originated around the same time in Britain marked by bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. 

Pop art started with the New York artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg, all of whom drew on popular imagery and were actually part of an international phenomenon. Following the popularity of the Abstract Expressionists, Pop’s reintroduction of identifiable imagery (drawn from mass media and popular culture) was a major shift for the direction of modernism. The subject matter became far from traditional “high art” themes of morality, mythology, and classic history; rather, Pop artists celebrated commonplace objects and people of everyday life, in this way seeking to elevate popular culture to the level of fine art. Perhaps owing to the incorporation of commercial images, Pop art has become one of the most recognizable styles of modern art today.

Above: Examples of pop art. Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, Oldenburg etc

“It could be argued that the Abstract Expressionists searched for trauma in the soul, while Pop artists searched for traces of the same trauma in the mediated world of advertising, cartoons, and popular imagery at large. But it is perhaps more precise to say that Pop artists were the first to recognize that there is no unmediated access to anything, be it the soul, the natural world, or the built environment. Pop artists believed everything is inter-connected, and therefore sought to make those connections literal in their artwork.” The Art Story Foundation, 2018

This painting is meant to show trauma, though the hints are subtle. In December of 2010 I was almost strangled to death. Through what could only be described as a surreal nightmare. High on cocaine and drunk, my ex proceeded to ‘black out’ and cover me in bruises. The only thing that saved me that night was my anger, defiance and self preservation. As many survivors of domestic abuse will tell you, the fight or flight mode had kicked in. The experience itself had played out like a film, one that would haunt me and had meant a year out from Napier University. The hints of red in her neck show the strangulation, the tear of blood showing her anguish.

The woman in the painting is representative of the value of females in the idea of Traditional Asian Society that seeps into the Modern Day. It is the cultural toxin that weeds itself through religion and promotes itself through paternal values. Underlying the layers of makeup, fake contacts, the colour and beauty, the marriage veil that covers her hair – the woman is ultimately sold as cattle. Her value and future is determined solely by the male dominant in the family she’s married into. Their trust and morality, control the freedom hanging in the balance. The deep reds are typical for weddings, normally a lucky colour in the East, but also symbolise the blood that goes with the gold.


Blood and Gold. Sofia Barton 2018

Acrylic on Deep Canvas.

Exhibition Piece for Spilt Milk Gallery.


(Below: First study of Blood and Gold, orig. Asian Bride)