"A painting has a life of its own" - Jackson Pollock (1912–1956)

The Deck of the Soviet Packet Boat, M.V. Taras Shevchenko

View from the deck of a typical packet-boat, the M.V. Taras Shevchenko, that journeyed between Europe and Australia until recent times. This was one of the last Soviet Union ship to do the Europe to Australia run. Moss painted the acrylic on canvas on board ship during the journey from Southampton, England to Melbourne, Australia. A number of preliminary drawings were done on board including works in pen and ink. Another drawing that survives and was used in the composition is a pencil drawing Matthew completed while crossing the Indian Ocean at about the same period to Singapore in the MV Kata Singapura. It contains a number of elements used in the final canvas including life-boat details. Even in those days, the seas off Indonesia were pirate-infested. As the vessel passed through the Coral sea Matthew Moss created the work of art under the curious gaze of heavily armed soviet sailors who were moving constantly about the decks and watching for any unusual movement from other ships in the proximity.

The teak timber deckchairs that take up the right foreground are typical of the period when travelling long distances by ship was an option to airlines. Deck furniture was basic without the comforts and the over indulgence of cruise ships which supplanted their disappearance as the various petrol crises of the last quarter of the twentieth century reduced the economic importance of this type of packet boat. The predominant colours of the canvas are cobalt blue and a variation of viridian green, used to represent the deck furniture and the metal structure of the deck including the flood lamps and dividing walls and rails, not forgetting the flat blue area indicating the sky. There is a transition to cadmium and ochre yellow in the timber deck and the outline of the life boat. To add plasticity to the objects depicted and a shot of warmth to the overall composition Matthew adds a touch of cadmium red to the steel chains bolted in to the deck in the centre, holding the life boat in place.

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