Official Olympic Artist Kevin Whitney mirrors ancient Greeks at Cirencester's Corinium

By Ben Miller | 14 August 2012
An image of a painting of an Olympic male athlete throwing a javelin in front of flags
© Kevin Whitney
Exhibition: The Olympic Art of Kevin Whitney, Corinium Museum, Cirencester, until August 31 2012

Kevin Whitney became the British Olympic Association’s Official Olympic Artist in 1982, but his muses are the ancient originators of the Games.

“When I was appointed, it was the first for any country in the world in the history of the modern Olympic movement,” he reflects, having spent London 2012 trying to capture something of the grace of the world’s greatest athletes.

“My art mirrors the artists of the ancient Greeks, who have always been an inspiration to me.

“They helped to create my initial idea of an Official Olympic Artist.

An image of a painting of a Greek ruin stretching towards a ceiling-like blue sky
Acropolis II
© Kevin Whitney
It was also partly a “reaction”, he says, to the Falklands conflict. “I thought, 'why appoint an artist to glorify death and destruction in a war zone when life and beauty at its utmost could be recorded at the Olympics?' The rest is history.”

Visa sponsored his work at Barcelona in 1992, giving his quest “viable financial credibility”, as well as the chance to reach an audience of millions.

“The public mural works I create are personal favourites,” he says. “They reach wider audiences than gallery or museum exhibitions.”

The classical elements of his pieces are informed by the architecture of Greece and the kind of dramatic opening ceremonies Danny Boyle has set a new standard for.

And his enduring infatuation, admits Whitney, has been with light “on the figure, the landscape, the object and all things.”

“For years I have had an obsession with light. The Italian expression, ‘chiaroscuro,’ meaning the play of light, describes this perfectly.”

3D works, including beautiful ceramics by Jitka Palmer and Jo Moreman’s patriotic mosaics, accompany the exhibition.

  • Open 10am-5pm (2pm-5pm Sunday). Admission free.
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