Tree of Life 1

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Throughout the 1970s the overarching theme of John Coburn’s work was his religious faith. In fact given the colour and exuberance of his works from this period, they could be considered to be amongst his most vibrant and theatrical works. The paintings are often highlighted with gold or silver paint which imbues them with a precious quality and in some ways, endows the paintings with a sense of the holy. The works are often symmetric in composition, reflecting the art and architecture of Christian places of worship.

As well as his faith, Coburn drew upon nature for his inspiration. Tree of Life, 1965, is a quintessential example of the artist’s celebration of his beliefs, incorporating stylised ecumenical symbolism as the central subject of the work. Within this painting the artist merges two forces; the artist as creator and a higher force as the creator of all things. Alan Rozen sums this up simply, ‘He is constantly aware of the abstraction of a feeling for beauty and achieves his aims by a union of this feeling and beliefs in religion and nature. This then presents a twofold approach by Coburn to his work: first, he wants to produce something that is beautiful and pleasing to look at and, secondly, on a more profound level, he wants to relate his religion to nature, and nature to his religious beliefs.

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