The thinly applied oil paint and sweeping brushstrokes in this piece lend a sense of fluidity that fits the depiction of an underwater scene. White paint has been splattered directly onto the canvas to create a ripple in the water as the whale that dominates the centre of the painting breaks the water. This creates a sense of quickness in the work which is emphasised by McPhail scratching lines directly into the wet paint in places. However, there is a great sense of calm and peacefulness to the work through the use of soothing blues and greens.
This work was inspired by the landscape of the Western Isles where McPhail spent a few months. She states that ‘its colours and moods had a great impact on me. I have used this impact, and the memories which it evokes, over the last year as a fuel for my work. My work is an expression of a period of healing from, and out of, depression.’ The gentle rippling of the water, the use of lighter tones to create a sense of light throughout the canvas and the use of serene colours combine to create a soothing and calm spirit and atmosphere. McPhail volunteered with art therapy classes during her studies and this piece exemplifies her belief in the power of art as a tool towards healing, also suggested in the title of this piece. The vast canvas contains much to contemplate and there is a powerful sense of peace throughout the whole work.
Ann McPhail was born in 1969 and studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee between 1990 and 1995. She also taught at the college part-time from 1992 until she graduated and took art therapy classes at Anton House Day Centre in Dundee. She exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy student exhibition and the Duncan of Jordanstone Degree show in 1995 and received the Ian Eadie Award in the same year. Her work has been featured in both public and private collections.