Iris 02 continues the body of work Lucy Ash has created to highlight LGBT issues. The catalyst for these works was the violent homophobic murder in Trafalgar Square of Ian Baynham on 25 September 2009. At the time of this attack, and his subsequent death Jenny Baynham, Ian’s sister was living with Lucy. It was a dark time. Although the three teenagers were subsequently convicted, the impact of this senseless and brutal crime was irreversible. Jenny and Lucy responded to their shared grief and horror by collaborating over a series of paintings. The work flowing from this has effectively visualised the hidden tragedy. Lucy's series of paintings, works on paper and film makes tangible the impact this mindless act of violence has had on Ian's family and friends. They live with it every day.
Iris 02 takes inspiration from the track ‘Blue Calm’ which was written by jazz musician Trish Clowes specifically with the multifaceted Iris in mind. The painting considers the dimensions and symbolism of Iris, the Greek rainbow Goddess of the sky and the sea, and messenger of the Gods. The artwork echoes this division of sea and air within its structure - the underlying base grid of the painting gives a sense of the soft and lyrical with its thick textured oil paint and varied shades of blue that contrast with the harder edged circles.
The circles play with the eye and create a contrasting dynamic; they also reinforce the association of Iris with the physical eye and with a rainbow. They hint at the retinal imagery inherent in the music. The circles are specifically restricted to six colours to symbolise the rainbow flag. This painting intuitively responds to the music to express the hope and vitality Iris is seen to represent.
Iris 02 is from a series of work, created for and exhibited in Ash's one-woman show ‘Echoes’ at Turner Sims, Southampton in early 2018. It features a cycle of works created as a response to the melodies, lyrics and themes of jazz artist Trish Clowes’ current album ‘My Iris’. All the paintings echo and complement the sound-world offered by Clowes and her ensemble, whose performance in a city renowned for its jazz, was scheduled to coincide with this exhibition.
As a gay artist and activist it was vital to Ash to connect the rainbow of Iris to the rainbow pride flag. Both are multifaceted and represent diversity, hope, and social action. Consequently, the spots are limited to six colours; this gives the artwork impact and a greater sense of depth and passion. It also sits comfortably with the city of Southampton, which embraces and champions its LGBT community.