In life, as in pictures, there is only the Romantic. Behind the scenes of our lives, there is everything unspoken, unseen, unknown – and nothing. Art is an offering, a show that mirrors the show we form around ourselves as we move through our scenery. Art is always artful, never real, always romantic. It is a ruse, a trick. It is a court fool, jumping up and down, aping its masters. Art is part of the dream that we inhabit.
For me there is a great emptiness in every kind of image. A finished, perfected work remains as insubsantial as the slight lines that first form a proposition on the canvas. All images are just propositions, in that they show up the difficulty we have in perceiving the world except through the filter of ourselves.
The author John Banville writes about the mystery of perception so well:
“Sometimes the beauty of things, ordinary things – those unseen flowers, this burnished foliage, the honeyed sunlight on the pavement at her feet – pressed in upon her urgently while at the same time the things themselves seemed to hold back, at one remove, as if there were an invisible barrier between her and the world.”
Perhaps, instead of saying that there is a great emptiness in images, I should rather say that I don’t know how to believe in them, although I wish I could inhabit such a magically connected world. It is as if faith in images is a lost treasure, and I must keep obsessively scratching on in the soil looking for any dry fragments of it.
These paintings are scenes of a Romantic nature. The Romantic seems to promise something beyond ourselves, and it lets us down with painful sweetness. This disappointment is also a way forward, a return to self. It is a way to feel Banville’s “invisible barrier”, a disconnection, a peace.
Quote from “The Silver Swan”, John Baville writing as Benjamin Black.