Harmony in Green

Dan Hays’ Harmony in Green is an oil paint on canvas from 1997 and is displayed at Liverpool’s Walker. He adopts a shallow perspective and an unusual treatment of the spaces between the bars, with the colours forming a random, harmonious pattern. He claimed to have made the cage "a desirable space to occupy." "Green is the colour of nature”, he stated, and the title likely recalls Claude Monet’s 1899 Impressionist piece The Water-Lily Pond-Harmony in Green. Yet the latter is of a tranquil, natural scene; Hays depicts a cage, a way of confining, restricting and limiting that which is free and natural, so perhaps his title is spiced with irony.

People think they are free when they take drugs, sleep around, ignore God and live for self. In reality, they inhabit cages of increasingly thick bars, wearing manacles and shackles of appallingly heavy iron. Only the bonds of Jesus Christ can make one free; to depart from Him as did Adam and Eve in Eden, is to load oneself with irons and enter a discordant cage of dreadful black and grey.

Make me a captive, Lord,

And then I shall be free.

Force me to render up my sword

And I shall conqueror be.

I sink in life's alarms

When by myself I stand;

Imprison me within thine arms,

And strong shall be my hand.


My heart is weak and poor

Until its master find;

It has no spring of action sure,

It varies with the wind.

It cannot freely move

Till thou hast wrought its chain;

Enslave it with thy matchless love,

And deathless it shall reign.


-George Matheson, 1890