Anita Lester

Ultramarine Dreams: The Relevance of Art in Hurried Times

(Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, The Virgin in Prayer)

In times of short attention, art seems to be a passe institution. However, the more things change, the more we should covet the methods of the old masters.


I am a painter. One of the lucky ones.

My day consists of evoking form, spirit, and history from simple and humble storytelling into the rhythm of color and shape on paper. I am constantly interpreting word into image and building worlds around a single gesture of language.

I, a lover of language—a lover of art, music, and all things using the fire of passion—have become perplexed to what has happened to our creative outlets.

In this world of instant gratification, we have forgotten how to make for the sake of making. To reveal ourselves creatively for the pure need to express. To assist our sometimes-tortured human souls. To speak of love and hate and pain. To nurse our demons and not suppress them. To not drown them in a confetti of pills, in rivers of alcohol, and in the flaming pocket-sized neon lights of endless distraction.

We don’t look around. Not in transit nor in public places, not whilst driving … nor even walking. We have forgotten how to feel when we are not being dictated to do so.

In 700AD, the color ultramarine was introduced into religious art. Due to its rarity (coming from the lapis lazuli stone) and hefty price tag, only the greatest painters and holiest subjects were gifted this pigment. Whilst blue existed before, it was distilled and perfected and brought to its ultimate state. It was known as “true blue.”

In the mid-1800s, however, the demand had become so great that a challenge was given to create a synthetic version; and within weeks, the world was served with “French ultramarine,” a.k.a. “blue for the masses.” From that point onwards, we see it everywhere. It is, in fact, the most common color used. Now, we don’t notice it.


We need art now more than before—to unite us, to fill us with comfort, love, and hope, and to wake us up.


But, for the fortunate few of us who cry over color, who devour it with our eyes, who become drunk on its power, we feel and know of its importance. Imagine feeling that always? Being moved like that always? Not needing to be told, but just being moved? That is art. That is true art.

When we listen to music, mostly curated for us, we are given a single moment from one person’s story.

We are no longer at a time in history where we walk to buy a beautiful warm vinyl record with a considered piece of art cloaking it, to blow the artifacts from our players and feel the journey from those makers of music. We don’t walk with our discmans, careful not to interrupt the flow of an album with an arrhythmic step. We don’t even sit in our modern homes and listen to an album in full.

We don’t travel with these artists anymore, for the hero’s journey must now only last for a maximum of four minutes or we are checked out.

The same with word, for the proof is in the decline of the book and the rise of the podcast, and the overall experience of people’s understanding of data in comparison to the whispers of society (another article, perhaps).

The proof is in reality television, using humans as vehicles. The proof is in different versions of the same people on the covers of magazines, being forgotten within months of one another.

A friend of mine who knows bones and swims through the veins of music has a similar reaction to basketball. I asked him why and he told me it is because of “the passion of it all.”

And it made me think about sport as a form of art, that has not only survived the changing of our times, but has thrived. Why? Not only because of its undeniable beauty, but because of its instant quality. It is uniting and raises the adrenaline of all those in its presence. It is devotional and easy to feel. It is instant.

Music can be that, but like synthetic blue, it can be recreated and churned out to the masses. It is so easy now to make art, in all forms, that its instant quality and the gratification of such has led us away from considered expression.

So, beyond my observation, I have a wish. I don’t want to feel like I’m living in a world of zombies. Since the beginning of time, art, music, and word has been a source of truth. Truth in oneself, but also the truth of the world.

It strikes me that perhaps now we have more to make about than ever, but the ego’s cry for self-satisfaction has gotten in the way. We don’t know how to be patient anymore. We are becoming desensitized, and we need art now more than before—to unite us, to fill us with comfort, love, and hope, and to wake us up.


Anita Lester

After starting her journey with alt-pop trio Me and The Grownups before moving onto the moniker Lester the Fierce, Anita Lester is ready to debut her solo project. Over the past decade, Anita has become known as "The tiny church with Cathedral pipes." She describes her writing as lyrically-driven, and her music cinematically-inspired.

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