Science fiction artwork has fascinated me from an early age thanks to countless books, films and television. From my first ventures into computer-aided artwork in the early nineties, to finally putting digital pen to tablet in 2010, that influence has come full circle as I produce artwork designed to take the viewer on a journey into other worlds and beyond. Here is a selection of my work.
NIGHT SHIFT (2017). The garish city lights coalesce, moving and twisting, their neon glow creating a fusion of images. Nothing is clear or definite to anyone viewing this scene. Buildings and streets flow one into another, but appear stark in contrast to the gloom of the rain and the night. Standing in the foreground is a figure observing the cityscape before him. From his clothing, it could be a gumshoe from mid twentieth century America, straight from the hard-boiled detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler – this could be Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. In which case he may be watching someone, and the lights in the background are a mere distraction to him. He has other things on his mind. Or maybe these abstract colours, flowing one into another, indicate how this person perceives the city itself. It is a blur of rapid movement which eludes his vision, preventing him from focusing on any one aspect of life in this confusing world. As he huddles against the rain, and the wet streets reflect this perplexing image back to him, there is nothing but uncertainty all around – perhaps it is an existence from which he longs to escape. Text: Richard Hayes
ARTEFACT (2015). History is replete with examples of the rise and fall of empires. Great civilizations that have flourished during their moment in the sun, but then declined, leaving only the decaying remains of their buildings and artefacts, and a few pages in the history books. On this planet, a lone human approaches the remains of a vast structure from a bygone age. The ancient ruin is shrouded with the vegetation and decay that comes from long neglect. We see from his clothing, the spear he carries and the fact that he rides his horse bareback, that his is a primitive society where the technology that created this artefact has long disappeared. His tribe may know nothing of the beings who built it, or perhaps have no more than race memories which are repeated with awe around their campfires. But a more disturbing thought occurs to us. Possibly this is the distant future of our own Earth. Through some catastrophe at which we can only guess, the human race has degenerated into a prehistoric state, and can now only stare with astonishment at what once was, little understanding what it may have represented, or might yet have been. Text: Richard Hayes
OBSERVATION POINT (2015). A spacecraft orbits a heavily cratered moon, the distant sun of this star system casting its light across the scene. The vast size of this vessel’s engines tell us that it has travelled far to reach this point, but they are now cold and silent – it has reached its destination. Even so, there is still much activity aboard the craft. Lights appearing through windows show that its occupants are busy going about their work, and its surface is covered with sensors and antennae which suggest that its role is to measure and analyse data. We are left in little doubt that these space travellers are here to observe something, but we are not certain what that can be. It might be some feature on the surface of the moon below, or on its parent planet which lies outside our view. What we can be sure of is that the civilization that sent this spaceship to this remote location had the resources, and the will, to dispatch a sophisticated mission – possibly for purposes of scientific research, or perhaps for some more sinister reason. Text: Richard Hayes
DAYBREAK (2018). A cat may look at a king, so the old proverb says. And anyone who knows cats will be well aware that they will go where they like, sit where they like, and look at what they like. This cat is observing a person who is, in turn, watching the sunrise over a futuristic cityscape. Across a stretch of flowing water a range of structures rise into a quiet, pink sky. In the distance, vast skyscrapers tower above the scene, but those nearer seem half completed, or perhaps half in ruins. This is not a place for comfortable living, but more the location of business which has ceased to function – or possibly where it has yet to start, and building work is still in progress. The huge edifices near where the observer stands confirm the appearance of unfinished construction, or the decay of some form of wharfside that was once a hive of activity. Or might yet be again. The solitary figure may be contemplating a greatness that is still to come. But the cat is not interested in the view – there’s nothing new in it. A human is more relevant to the everyday existence of a cat. Text: Richard Hayes
DEMESNE (2016). A vast spaceship stands out against the infinity of the interstellar void. It has the distinctive design of an Enzmann starship, the huge front globe holding the deuterium propellant that powers its nuclear fusion drive, with living quarters extending behind. Many lighted windows show that it is crewed, and several generations may live and die on board before it reaches its destination. Its name stands out proudly – Demesne – and it might indeed be the sole domain of these travellers for many years, possibly even centuries. The engines of this spectacular craft achieve speeds to a significant percentage of the speed of light, but they are now silent. We think that it might have already achieved its cruising velocity, except for the existence of a smaller spacecraft which is approaching under power – such a hazardous transfer is unlikely during the voyage. No, this starship is stationary, probably before the start of its journey. We question the purpose of the coming rendez-vous between these vessels. A portal is opening in the side of the starship, so the smaller craft is welcome. Perhaps the final members of the crew are arriving before their epic voyage begins, anticipating the challenge of what awaits them – and their descendants. Text: Richard Hayes
TERMINAL (2016). A huge spacecraft hovers above a landing site. It is bulky and seems cumbersome – its complex construction shows us that this is a transport vessel, designed to move large quantities of freight, or possibly people, between the planets and the stars. It may be arriving, or possibly leaving – we cannot be sure, but the large number of people waiting at this terminal implies that they are anticipating its arrival, and what it brings. Torrential rain and grim clouds tell us that the weather system on this planet is not attractive for humans like ourselves. It may the norm on this world, or perhaps it represents a rapid deterioration in what was once a pleasant and idyllic land, and many are trying to escape it while they can. Now they eagerly await their chance of rescue from an impending catastrophe. Yet a lone figure watches the scene from a balcony. He is not part of this mass reaction to events, but calmly observes the flow of humanity. Does he know something they don’t? Or maybe he has simply accepted that life on this world is more acceptable than the alternative that may be found elsewhere… Text: Richard Hayes
AWAKENING (2011). Inspired by the H.G. Wells novel, The Sleeper Awakes. The story’s main protagonist falls into a deep sleep for over 200 years, and awakens in a completely transformed London – a world of chaos and disorder – only to discover that he is the richest man alive. This was one book I could not put down, ultimately prompting me to paint that pivotal scene of the character’s first glimpse of the new world around him. Awakening was displayed at the Riverside Gallery in Richmond Upon Thames in September 2011, as part of their Brave New Worlds exhibition.
RUIN (2016). There is a poignancy in seeing the ruins of civilizations that have come and gone. Whether they were the scene of great events or just the routine of daily life, their days of glory are no more. Now they are just a reminder of what once was. An abandoned spaceport is quiet and still, overgrown with the vegetation that covers the surface of this planet. It has long since ceased to function in any meaningful way, just like the ruined spacecraft lying, useless and decaying, on its landing pad. We wonder why this facility was left to the mercies of nature by those who once occupied it, but there may be a clue in the way it was built. It is supported by a massive column, raising it high above the planet’s surface – something on the ground must have presented a risk, or a threat, to its effective operation and justified the huge cost of construction. Perhaps the danger may have been the plant life itself – pervasive and all-consuming. Did the original inhabitants manage to avoid it by moving away, or did they end their days trapped in the confines of a structure from which there was no escape? Text: Richard Hayes
WAITING (2017). The vast background of a planetary surface dominates this image of another world. Its reddish hue suggests that we are looking at the planet Mars, its cratered terrain coloured by the iron oxide spread throughout the surface material. It is bleak and unwelcoming – a harsh environment where humans could exist only in shelters to protect them from conditions which are inimical to any life-forms we know. A space station stands out starkly against this forbidding scene, orbiting the Red Planet as a different form of shelter for people from our own world. Lighted windows show that it is inhabited, and its circular structure indicates that its rotation may be designed to provide the equivalent of gravity for long-term occupation. But we see no activity around the station. It is almost as though its inhabitants are waiting for something to happen. They may be mere observers of the Martian surface, but surely automatic satellites could achieve that function more easily. No, they are here for some other purpose. They may be awaiting the time when they can travel down to the planet – we may be witnessing the first stage of the colonization of Mars. Text: Richard Hayes
THALASSA (2015). A city by the sea stretches up towards a grim and leaden sky. Tall buildings stand out starkly against a background of structures obscured by mist and rain. The city is occupied – we see lights in the windows and on gantries – but all is not well. Waves lash against the lower levels of these skyscrapers, and some have already collapsed into an ocean that seems to threaten the city’s very existence. We sense that the inhabitants of this doomed metropolis may not have much time left before they must leave. We view Thalassa from the confines of a craft of some sort. Are we approaching the city, or fleeing from it? Our eye is drawn to a lighted area in one of the buildings where we see what might be figures silhouetted against the brilliance. They may watch us with undisguised contempt as we leave them to their fate, or possibly they await our arrival in the hope that we bring them deliverance. Text: Richard Hayes
THE WORLD OUTSIDE (2013). A beautiful girl looks through a window at an unknown world outside. She is relaxed and calm, so we know that the environment inside this barrier is comfortable and secure. It may be the interior of a habitat or spacecraft on the surface of this planet. She looks out with interest at this alien terrain, and holds her hand against the window. The gesture may suggest a wish to be outside and to appreciate this world to the full. But what is on the other side may be hostile – the sky is thick with oppressive clouds, and there is no trace of life on the surface. A waterfall cascades from what must be a plateau, where perhaps the planet offers entirely different, and less stark, surroundings – is that what she seeks? But if we look closely, we see rents in her left sleeve. Has she just returned to this realm of safety from a dangerous trip outside? Maybe it is the sun of this world that she salutes, as it sets beyond the distant jagged mountains, and she yearns for the familiar world of her home that it represents. Or does she fear what the night will bring? Text: Richard Hayes
FIRST LIGHT (2014). A red giant star dominates a planet’s sky, and a city spreads out before us in its unearthly light. We ask ourselves whether the city is in its dying days as a result of an expanding sun – perhaps the remnants of a civilization are surviving in its domed structures. Obviously whoever lives there needs the domes as well as the buildings – presumably the atmosphere is toxic, or has perhaps recently become toxic. Are we witnessing the last stages of a once-great society? Or could this be the civilization’s normal existence and its inhabitants have learned to survive in what simply looks to us like a hostile environment? It may be thriving within the structures that we see. After all, it’s not a dead city – there are two clear signs of life: a rocket and a land car. It might merely be an image of the time of day when little is going on, and the city is awakening. Or could these be the last inhabitants trying desperately to make their escape from a doomed existence? Text: Richard Hayes