Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
It’s true to say that I’ve nurtured an ambition to make a painting based on the Padstow obby oss ever since moving to Cornwall more than thirty years ago. Of all the Cornish Festivals this is probably the one whose folk origins stretch furthest back into the mists of time. Now I find myself living only ten miles or so from Padstow and so this year Gabrielle and I hot-footed it over there back on May Day this year. Ever since then I’ve been mulling over the references I collected at that time and recently finished distilling them into a Padstow obby oss painting ( http://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/obby_oss.html ). A complex series of inherently unstable diagonals and a play of shadows and highlights seemed to offer a way of suggesting the teetering and swaying movement of this curiously primitive figure. His disc-like frame seemed to swirl around precariously, charged with spring energy. The highlights of red and white on both his costume and those of his attendants mark him out as the “red oss” as distinct from the smaller “blue oss” which appeared at other times that day and in other parts of the town. The strangeness and the play of shapes and colours here provided all the visual music and dance that I, as a painter, could wish for as material for a celebratory painting on this extraordinary theme.