Flying Too Close to the Sun

Flying to close to the sun

Flying Too Close to the Sun is another unique-concept book from Phaidon Press. It is illustrated with every genre of art from every era. There is, however, a common thread and that is ancient mythology.

One doesn’t have to have a degree in ancient literature to appreciate Flying Too Close to the Sun: the art speaks volumes. One can find epic canvases depicting fantastic mythological beasts, and sharing the same two-page spread there might be a contemporary sculpture offering another interpretation of the same narrative.

Some of the subject matter is violent, much is romantic, but all of it is thought-provoking. Perhaps that’s the enduring enchantment and relevance of ancient myths. They might, at first glance, seem passé but they all deal with the human condition in some way. If we understand the message then we can more easily appreciate the painting, sculpture, or tableau.

A classic interpretation which perfectly captures the myth

There are gentle oil paintings illustrating scenes from a carved stone frieze. Orpheus and Eurydice were the inspiration for both those works.  In the chapter called Narcissus there is a splendid comparison. The Caravaggio offers a classic interpretation which perfectly captures the myth. The facing page shows a black and white photograph by Mat Collishaw: here the pool-gazing youth is far from the more polished boy on the opposite canvas, but the story and depiction of self-absorption is just as recognisable.

There are several interpretations of the Cyclops myth, but perhaps the most simple, pure and fanciful is that of Jamie Pitarch. His work is actually half a pair of spectacles – that is to say a perfect spectacle with only one lens. Whimsical and rather clever.

Flying Too Close to the Sun will be a revelation to those who are studying any form of art, but also to others who are fascinated by very different approaches to the same artistic comment on humanity and all its foibles.

Flying Too Close to the Sun
Author: James Cahill
Published by: Phaidon Press
Price: £39.95
ISBN-13: 978-0714875231