Some time ago, I produced a series of paintings with images of stilt houses clustered together forming small communities banded together for support against various tidal incursions. This large work is the latest in the series. It has been in a semi-finished state for some time, and I have only now finished it. It differs from earlier pieces, as it draws inspiration from our current pandemic circumstances. Here positive and negative images duke it out for our attention. Red clouds might signal either the beginning or the end of bad weather. The water might reflect either the dawn of a new day or the end of yet another. There is no way to tell. Light can play tricks or reassure … deceive or make clear … your choice.

The water reflects a cluster of socially distanced Stilts, silhouetted against a bright sky in a hazy world with no clear horizon. The Stilts are closed to us, showing no signs of life, only awkward shapes clustered and isolated from one another. They are only semi-interesting, flat and unrevealing. For all we know they might be abandoned, vacation homes left to the ravages of a tempest. Or conversely, they could be filled with any number of people all tucked up inside … Zooming, doing jigsaws, cooking, learning Italian, or whole families sharing space while attending school and working from home. Maybe they are merely waiting for their neighbors to join them on the deck for cocktails, now that the sun is going down. Or then again, now that the sun is up perhaps they are waiting on their first cup of coffee.

And then there are those ubiquitous clouds casting long shadows, allowing us to see what lurks beneath the bright surface of our little world. Are those fish woven into underwater cathedrals of seaweed? One supposes they are still gathered down there. After all, their world remains unchanged by Covid-19. Or, are those perhaps the famed nefarious monsters of the deep, lurking below the surface to pull us into their nether world so as to enact their dastardly deeds? Who can say, the underwater world is one in which everyday life goes on and as we know, both the benign and the brutal play a role in nature. Here the sky full of mackerel clouds allows us a glimpse of the depths.

So, it is we find ourselves living with constant irresolution and indecision. Daylight obscures our vision of the world, reflecting only the carapace of a normal life. However, that doesn’t obviate the presence of stories unfolding, and dramas being enacted to which we are no longer witness. We know that. We know everyday life, with its endless scenarios  goes on all around us. And, oddly enough, because social distancing has given others a more limited view of our own lives, we now find ourselves inside that same obscured vision of normalcy, living in silhouette, flat and unrevealing, fighting against obfuscation.  Meanwhile, shadows let us catch glimpses of other worlds, and allow us to imagine alternatives where we might not have thought to look before. It is to be hoped we can learn from this experience to keep still and discover what Mother Nature and Father Time can achieve when they come together.


Note about the painting: MACKEREL SKY  48×36  oil  $3400.


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