My latest series of paintings illustrate a complex subject which involves color, motion, space, distance and order. Boston's Logan Airport aircraft activity is the subject. The presentation considers the runway layouts, the flight path angles, spacing, airline liveries and the daylight variations from full sunshine to full shadow.
My research began with a visit to the airport's control tower, arranged by my Massport friend. The tower's height allowed an overview of the runways and their triangular layout. The core is an equilateral triangle with extended sides which form mile long runways. Between the tower's windows are electronic screens to display markers of aircraft approaching Boston from Europe or along the east coast. Flight angles were explained. Landing occurs at three degrees and takeoffs at nine degrees and both occur heading into the wind. Approaching aircraft use their lights which clearly show them in spaced linear alignments.
Using my notes, I progressed to sketches, drawings and then to building a model. Subsequently, this was photographed to capture distinct shadows on its parts. The linear flight paths were reconfigured into tapered ribbons wrapped around triangular prisms to represent the space above the airport. Invisible radio beams guide the aircraft but only at high altitudes may these be implied by the aircraft's visible vapor trails. Spaced regularly along the ribbons are colored markers. They suggest the moving aircraft with their individual airline liveries. Of the nearly forty airlines that are served by Logan, fourteen are depicted in my paintings. Near the yellow bounds of the runway, the ribbons and markers are broad. But they diminish in size as they distance from the airport.
Color is the initial attraction to these paintings. The background is a field of brightly colored chevrons whose pattern is wide at the top and narrow toward the crowded base. The colors are dark at the top but brighten at the bottom. The angling, white ribbons overlay the background and change color at their corners. They are bright white in direct sunlight, turning light gray in raking light and then turning dark gray when in shadow. Colors of the markers also transform with the light changes. For example, "berry wine" red in sunlight becomes "rosy red" in raking light and "earthly russet" when in shadow. The choice of color reinforces the sought three dimensionality of the composition. Ribbons float clear of the background with well defined corners.
The tangle of ribbons express ordered and spaced complex motion. Only motion picture film can capture the action of simultaneous movements. My abstract paintings capture the action of simultaneious landings and takeoffs on separate runways.
Malcolm Montague Davis