The Peter Pan Series, Kerry Darlington
Second star to the right and straight on until morning
An early introduction into the imagination of J.M Barrie was assisted by Kerry Darlington’s adoration of 19th Century illustration. Even as a youngster, the artist was drawn to the india ink world of Arthur Rackham and whose visual narration of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens led Darlington to discover Neverland and the original 1911 novel Peter and Wendy. The tale of a child who didn’t want to grow up has left a lasting impression on Darlington, whose perspective on life has been coloured by the eternal hope of youth. Grasping tightly onto the magical world in which fairies, pirates, mermaids and lost boys rule, the artist conjured a thrilling new chapter in the life story of this infamous tale.
A series of unique limited editions was founded; Come Away Come Away was first seen in 2012 and marked the start of a portfolio which would grip collectors eager to share in the adventure. Generations re-discovered Peter Pan, Wendy, Michael and John Darling and their soaring flight above smoky London, St. Pauls Cathedral quietly observing the dramatic scene above. Classic characters Hook, Tinkerbell and the notorious ill-tempered crocodile soon joined the fray. Under an orange tainted sky, the struggle between the troop of Lost Boys and Hooks minions to save the kidnapped children rages aboard The Pirate Ship. The female protagonists were profiled in standout works Wendy and Tinkerbell which explore the spirit of each – Wendy, wise beyond her years and melancholy without Peter by her side – Tinkerbell feisty with a twinkle in her eye.
A common misconception is that the unique edition Young Pan formed a part of this series; it is in reality a piece created independent of collection inspired by the early days of the mythological Greek god of Nature. The youth of Peter Pan was instead explored in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, the novel which first introduced the artist to her favourite illustrator. The painting traces Peter as a seven-day old infant who flies away from his mother to live in Kensington Gardens, befriending the faeries. Sitting amongst a glowing mass of winged pixies and sprites the baby Pan plays his pipes to the delight of all. Though a happy scene, it is a sad tale in which returning to see his mother Peter Pan discovers he has stayed in the Gardens too long, and that she has given birth to a new baby to love and whom will not leave her.
Coming to a conclusion in 2016, Peter Pan in Neverland marked what many have thought to be the final unique edition in the highly regarded series. An incredible birds eye view of Neverland, we see the fantasy land through the artist’s eyes. Colourful tipis litter the beach with a hive of activity, the lapping lagoon hugging the shore. Somewhere between dawn and dusk, the pyjama-ed children sit atop of a cloud and contemplate the scene below. A new place in the history of the story alongside Arthur Rackham’s illustration, Disney’s motion picture and Robin Williams version of Hook, the collection has left an indelible mark on the minds of collectors internationally.
The Peter Pan Series, in Kerry’s words
Come Away, Come Away
“Come Away Come Away was the first Peter Pan piece that I painted, and perhaps for me the most magical. For it is full of a longing, an anticipation that we all feel whilst growing up, and which most of us lose upon adolescence. Flying with a feeling of complete freedom, abandoning of a world of rules, toward a place where we can forever live our dreams. Neverland has been compared to a type of Eden, a place where only children are allowed to go, with no adults or regimen over our lives.”
“Wendy is a similar theme to ‘Come Away, Come Away’ in its atmosphere, and it could be either a prequel or a sequel to this. Wendy has been aware of Peter for years as he appeared in her dreams, her sub-conscious, their relationship being of the essence of a pure love, a spiritual love, a love that she has known since the beginning of time. Her love for Peter is described throughout the story in different ways, sometimes in a tender motherly way, at other times in a best friend’s way and at other times in a soulmate way. I think that Wendy is wistfully thinking about Peter here, and with him a feeling of true belonging from which she is now apart, which she cannot explain.”
The Pirate Ship
“Peter Pan and the Pirate Ship is an active painting full of energies! The sea was painted first, and it really set the scene for what was to be a very dynamic piece in its’ feeling. The ship was influenced by the Steampunk art that I had seen, and the work of William Heath Robinson. Some of the pirates I painted on board were people that I knew, that had basically behaved in the same manner as pirates. The ship is full of the lost children and you can see that they are winning the battle. People often ask me where Tinkerbell is, that I had forgotten her - no, she had drunk the poison intended for Peter, and Peter was now seeking retaliation for her ‘death’.”
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens
“Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is a prequel of all the above, going back to the book of the same name. This book is entirely different in its’ feel, it is rather melancholy in essence. It is full of fairies and really brings the fairy folk into our real life, as they are described as living around Kensington Gardens. I visited the park to get a feel for the place and it certainly has a peculiar energy. Peter Pan was described as living on a little island in the Serpentine, there is quite a jump later on in his age, to when he goes on to meet Wendy and her brothers. This was one of the hardest pieces for me to paint because Peter is a baby in figure, but does not think as a baby. I had to arrive at a child who looked young but felt older in spirit. The fairy party was simply magical to paint, the colours and the atmosphere were inspired by the painting “Midsummer Eve” by Edward Robert Hughes.”
"Tinkerbell was a sweet little painting in which I tried to capture the essence of her. This is how she was before she met Wendy, for meeting her seemed to make her ‘grow up’ in many ways. She became possessive over Peter and possibly lamented over not being a little girl that he could fall in love with. This is Tink in her pure fairy essence, playful and happy amongst nature."
Peter Pan in Neverland
"Peter Pan in Neverland was probably the last piece of the series. I intended to show as much of Neverland as I possibly could, which is why I settled with the group perched upon a cloud, looking down upon the magical island. I read the chapters again and made notes of all the things I could set out to include; the flamingo with the broken leg, the old boat that the children had seen in their dreams of Neverland, the Red Indians making fires, the lost boys’ hideout under the tree, the wolf with her cubs, the turtles laying their eggs on the beach, the Pirate Ship with their canon ready to aim and the parrot secretly scouting the children. In the distance we can see buildings on the horizon, this is to represent where the children have come from. This piece is the beginning of their adventures into the unknown."