"The creation of art is not the fulfillment of a need but the creation of a need.
The world never needed Beethoven's Fifth Symphony until he created it. Now we could not live without it."

-Louis I. Kahn, Architect

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Happy 70th, Professor Stephen Hawking and Thank You! "Wink to Life"... ;-)

Portrait of Stephen Hawking: "Wink to Life". Technique: mixed (oil, acrylic, crayon, etc) on canvas. Size: approx. 66 x 66 cm
Dear Professor Stephen Hawking. I wish to thank you.
Thank you for your determination and stubbornness in life which is an inspiration to us all. I received your message addressed today quite well: "Be curious"(I am) and "Don't give up!" (I won't). This is why I decided to paint this second portrait of yours after this first one (end of 2009) after we met the year before.

Creativity is a very complex and “uncertain” activity. I tried then many different solutions/ compositions to convey both your personality and the scientific issues and challenges that have occupied your entire life.
I eventually destroyed these first compositions (see right-hand side picture) but decided to come back to one of them with a new approach based on my current research regarding C.P. Snow’s “Two Cultures” question : what is apparently dividing Arts and sciences and why so?
This portrait's background is an attempt to illustrate this crucial paradox (yet real) between two theories; the quantic and the relativistic laws of our Universe. I decided to "superpose" patterns from particle collisions against patterns from nebulae/ galaxies, … with us humans, the very complex ones, in between the very large and the very small scales. You are standing where “human complexity” does.

We know that your MND (Motor Neurone Disease) limits you immensely. It allows you now to use only the right-hand side of your face. Ironically, this physical handicap permits you to "wink" to us and to this Universe. A wink to “fate”. Hence your portrait. ;-)

My comments:
There are many winks in this portrait. Besides Professor Hawking's, there are both artistic and scientific winks too.
The background is incomplete on its left-hand side... on purpose. It "symbolizes" the so-called "theory of everything" (TOE) which Professor Hawking and his colleagues are working on for decades. At the forefront I painted what particles collisions look like when smashed into smaller pieces. The process appear very "random" and "chaotic"and I used dripping techniques from Jackson Pollock's. Although "chaotic" the particle collisions follow sometimes very geometric mathematical paths (straight lines or spirals)... Behind this, I painted nebulae/ galaxies which obey to Einstein's General relativity laws of gravity. These two "levels", the infinitely small (quantum level) and infinitely large are placed as in "perspective", trying to visually reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable theories, towards a so-called "TOE"...
Professor Hawking's "wink" is pointing both at this TOE and to Life itself.;-)


  1. A few weeks after my 2012 portrait, David Hockney was invited to do his portrait of Professor Hawking to celebrate his 70th birthday. It is now part of the Science museum exhibit.
  2. I also submitted my portrait at this year 2012 BP award of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG). This was the second reason why I finished it this January (the first being Professor Hawking's birthday). Why NPG? To give its curators and director an opportunity to redeem themselves after having  commissioned Professor Hawking's portrait in 1985 to Yolanda Sonnabend who delivered a very poor portrait. When visiting NPG, this portrait became my motivation for contacting him in 2008, and to learn we shared the same views on this poor portrait by Sonnabend. The 2012 BP award rejected my submission.


  1. Magnificent,, i believe the destroyed painting can still be created!*

  2. Democracy, which democracy?
    I posted a few days ago a comment on an article at http://sciencemuseumdiscovery.com/blogs/insight/science-museum-unveils-new-hockney-ipad-portrait-of-professor-stephen-hawking/ congratulating David Hockney for his portrait of Professor Hawking done at the occasion of his 70th Bday and exhibited at the science museum. I also informed them I did his portrait for the same occasion since I met him personally in 2008 to start then another portrait. This was part, as I explained him, of a project of dialogue between artists and scientists, an answer to C.P. Snow's "Two Cultures" question.
    Today sciencemuseumdiscovery.com deleted my post...