“I said, “I do not fear those pants with nobody inside them.” I said and said and said those words. I said them, but I lied them.”
from Dr. Seuss “What was I scared of?”
I got the idea for the painting from a haunting Dr Seuss book, in which a child is terrified by an empty pair of pants. He’s out in the woods, or paddling down a river, and wherever he goes he spots the pants lurking and following. In the end the child and the pants make friends – it turns out the pants were just as scared. But as a child I was not at all convinced by the ending, and even when they are cuddling, I remained very frightened of the pants.
I don’t like giving a definitive meaning but here are some thoughts.
The figures in ”Nobody Inside Them” are just traces, an eternal dance of leftovers, striking classical poses like a timeless detail from a Renaissance crowd scene, enacting societal theatre, on a stage of washed up items that have lost their significance but still shamefully exist. Helpless marionettes continuing for ever their ritualised actions, clothed in normality. It’s scary and also ridiculous – we are violently, foolishly destructive, blind to reality in our ever-failing efforts to achieve visibility. Tiny mice pick out a life in the rubbish.
It’s a beautiful, grandiose, double-edged joke like all my paintings. Beautiful realism in painting, the kind that echoes the idealism of art historical painting from other times, almost feels violent in itself – an outrage on every idea of decency. But how else to expose the thin struts behind the backdrop, how else get to the heart of the matter, except via tropes and via the appearance of things – what else is there behind the surface of the world except just more obfuscation?