Monday, November 30, 2009

They’ve Always Got Something To Talk About & After They Went Away

Today’s images are They’ve Always Got Something To Talk About and After They Went Away. Neither is dated so I can’t tell if they were made at the same time but they are certainly very similar in style, both boldly carved prints in black ink, hand-coloured with watercolour.
Whether they are related or not, they have created in my mind another story and I am reminded again of the words of the Barbadian blogger, The Bajan Reporter: “His linocuts and woodcuts remind me for the most part of cels from an animated feature yet to be fully crafted, and I want to view the whole feature!”

(If you would like to view his blog click on the link below – there is also a wonderful clip of Bridget Thompson speaking at the opening of the Barbadian A Hot and Quiet Evening)

They’ve Always Got Something to Talk About is a delightful scene in which two women converse outside on a blustery day while a little girl – clearly the daughter of one of them – stands between them, uninvolved, apparently bored or perhaps just complacent – I imagine that it is from her thoughts that the title comes. 

The sensation of being outside in a real space is astonishingly apparent. Enormous, completely un-naturalistic clouds hover over the women and a small house in the distance – bloated and round like hefty water balloons. Set against a backdrop of heavy-looking black horizontal lines, the atmosphere feels taught and expectant – it seems likely that it is about to rain.
Perhaps this is the cause for the little girl’s long-suffering evaluation of the situation. Maybe the house in the distance is hers and she longs to get to it before the skies open up – or perhaps hers is still a way off and she has little hope of returning to it un-drenched.

Contrasting sadly with this charming, life-filled little scene is After They Went Away. While the first image is a moment in time, brief and changing as life is, in this second image the sad little house, dilapidated and overgrown, has about it an immense stillness. There is something slightly tragic about an abandoned house. While occupied, these human creations seem to take on a life of their own. When empty they seem to be in a state of waiting, as if hoping to return to life.

This feeling is undoubtedly caused by Clarke’s effective and poetic use of words in the title. ‘Abandoned House’ would not have resonated so forlornly within me but his words manage to anthropomorphise this inanimate object, creating a strange empathy with it. Through this subtle and strange twist in identification, the house seems to become a metaphorical object for human impermanence.
There is something strangely spiritual about the blue sky coming through the broken rafters and disintegrating thatch of the roof. The house’s solidity is being proven to be an illusion and it is slowly being taken back into nature, returning to the earth and oneness.

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