‘Ut pictura tractatio – Some Thoughts on Jay Johnstone’s Isildur’s Bane’
I first met Jay Johnstone surrounded by his artwork at the Return of the Ring conference in Loughborough in August 2012 – and was struck by two things. First, the impact some of his pictures had on my psyche, and second, by Jay’s dedication to his craft. The former can be attributed to the power of his artistic vision and his talent to cast his ideas into a form that speaks directly to the observer’s innermost being.1 Yet Jay Johnstone’s pictures also contain no mean degree of ‘craftsmanship’ and conscious thought that finds expression in the symbolism of each painting. It took some time and a longish after-dinner-talk with Jay to bring this latter aspect to my full attention. It was also during this extended talk that he laid out the central ideas and the (‘theological’) reasoning that went into the making of Isildur’s Bane. At the end of the evening we had an understanding that I would try and write an essay with the aim to illustrate how a painting can become a comment on and an interpretation of some aspects of Tolkien’s work.