A pollack: ‘caught’

Pollack are predators, but this fish has been predated by a man. Its beautiful lights and colours are fading fast. Acrylics on canvas – 40 x 80 cm.


This pollack may not be the last fish I paint. The colours of fish are more extraordinary than most of us know, being used only to the dull corpses in plastic trays offered by supermarkets. The scales, particularly very fine scales, refract light in the most beautiful ways. The belly of this pollack shimmers with blues and pinks. The dark head and back show flecks of gold. The colours of even the freshest fish dim soon after landing.

A pollack: ‘caught’ is about ambiguity. People see the painting and ask me if I’m a fisherman – as if they can’t think of any other reason I might have to paint a fish. I used to fish. Forty years ago not many people (outside the circles of zoologists and sea anglers) had even heard of pollack (Pollachius pollachius). Nowadays, because of overfishing, you’ll find pollack in your fish fingers, your fish and chips, your fish pie, and who knows what else labelled as ‘white fish’

The pollack is a predator itself, swimming fast after its own diet of anchovies, small herring, and sandeels. In turn, all of a pollack’s prey species are also predators. But this particular fish has been predated by a man – and it lies dead on the breakwater, many scales rubbed off on the stones, fins folded. Light and colour are ebbing fast. The breakwater in question is the extraordinary Alderney breakwater.

I find myself wanting to go fishing again. There is undeniable excitement in seeing the float vanish into the depths, then feeling the fish pulling at the line.

If you like this painting you might also like some of my other Channel Island scenes.