This painting shows a balloon passing through the bright lights of Toronto. It is engulfed within the city, hovering above a bar, which is lit by the neon sign ‘The Ship Engulfed’. While reading about psychology and Zen Buddhism, Michael Andrews came across the phrase ‘the skin-encapsulated ego’. At the same time, he saw a newspaper photograph of a balloon floating above rural Gloucestershire. These two things came together in his mind as he began a series of paintings using a balloon as a symbol of the ego or self.
The title of the seven ‘Lights’ paintings made by Michael Andrews between 1970 and 1974 is inspired by the poem ‘Les Illuminations’ by the French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854 - 1891). The series is concerned with the concept of gaining enlightenment through an objective vision of the world. As Andrews follows the balloon’s progress through different landscapes, he contemplates the concept of being ‘released and unselfconscious – how wonderful that would be’.