Jag – Sonnet 54


Billy Shannon

Acrylic on Canvas
102 x 102cm


Billy Shannon’s painting of contemporary dancer, Jag Popham counterpoints with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 54 which reflects on the nature of beauty and truth.
In his words…

“This painting is a merging of two work series. Jag Popham is an Australian contemporary dancer. This painting was done as part of my Sleep series whilst he was working with Expressions Dance Company, here in Brisbane. I decided to repurpose a painting from my Shakespeare’s Sonnet 54 series that I was in the middle of working on, as the sonnet reflects on the nature of beauty and truth, as well as the transience of youthful beauty. I showed Jag the sonnet and he strongly related to it, so it was a perfect match!

Many of the acrobats and dancers that I was painting for the sleep series at that time were beautiful young people, but their careers can only last so many years, as it is so demanding on their bodies. By the time most of them are in their mid-thirties, they are certainly thinking about the next phase of their lives. Jag was 22 when this work was made, in peak fitness and just about to head off to London to an exciting new company. His intrinsic self is the personification of truth and integrity, and seems dynamic, even in his sleep.

The Sleep series came about via my other-role as a deep tissue massage therapist for physical performers. In 2015, one of my clients wanted to know what she’d look like “through the eyes of my paintbrush”. As she was exhausted from her day’s performance work, I suggested that she have a snooze… A 90-minute massage is always the first part of each painting session, it ensures that they sleep and deepens our connection within the work. Observing the transition and contrast of these highly active, dancers and circus performers into a passive state of rest and repair, intrigues me a great deal and leads to many thoughts of the internal journeys that we all go on in sleep.”

Billy was fortunate enough to create a painting of Bella Hood, now married to Jag, and who co-created (among many other things) KIN


O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth.


Find some excellent information on the sonnet here at Shakespeares-sonnets.com

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