Although my writing often uses allusion and metaphor my most common technique is reference. The deliberate triggering of emotion or intellect by forms of words and experiences with which the reader may be familiar, perhaps unknowingly. Sometimes my references pass people by, but they are there, hidden beneath the surface, like buried treasures. Music, films, history, ancient texts, The Bible nestle side-by-side. My prose is deceptively simple but is buttressed by those that went before.
Visually, I'm quite literal. I could be dismissed - and often am - as hating all art that doesn't have a semblance of reality. But this literalism can hide artifice and subtext (pre-Raphaelites, anyone?). The framing, the subject, the angle, the deliberate manipulation of scene, emotion and place that an artist consciously puts into a painting is as important as the form.*
So, in this spirit, let me introduce my favourite artist, Edward Hopper. In my lounge, along with framed LP covers, two Hoppers hang, facing each other. On one wall is:-
This is faced by:-
Within these two you get pretty much quintessential Hopper. The very strong sense of place, mood, of images being presented full on but still hiding much. I mean, what is the usherette thinking in the Movie Theatre picture? But also, it reveals the human element behind life which I like. It's the deliberate panning back in order to highlight the trivial. All life is affected by mood, emotion, secrets. There is surface and there is stuff going on underneath. Hopper is about these things. It's not happy.
So Hopper is a realist but his paintings always convey a mood, hint at a story, scratch the surface of deep emotions. These are the sorts of paintings where you can sit in front of them in an art gallery, scratch your chin and speculate on what the artist meant. 'Gas' pictured above is very much like this. A solitary garage on a little used road, closes for the night as the shadows from the evening and the forest close in. It's lonely, suggestive, oppressive even,
Let me give you a couple more favourites:
I suppose an early fore-runner of Nighthawks. Who is she? Why is she on her own? Questions. Questions.
The grass, the sinister trees again. The man and woman pensive (argument, loss, waiting something), the dog!
But I've entertained you enough, I feel. Hopper's my man with the brushes. But it's a personal thing. Shared by millions.
So long, farewell, auf weidersehn.
* I could bore for Britain on my views of the duty of the artist. Or the freewill of the artist. How selection and viewpoint is as much a part of the artistic palette as skill, technique, form. But also serendipity.
RIP Charmain Carr who died this week. Remember her this way. I think somewhere we're all 16 going on 17.