09 March 2022

The wounded sea

The Wounded Sea, 2012-2013 Poët Laval, oil on canvas, 150 X 150 cm

This is painting from 2012-2013 when I had a large studio in Poët Laval which is land-locked and about 150 km away from the Mediterranean Sea. I made a series of these pictures and as they evolved I realised that they were about the dying sea. I often went for swims when I went down to Marseille or Cassis to see friends. On one particular trip just off Marseille on a rocky promenade at the end of an ally way within the city friend took me down for a swim one evening in late June. I was horrified by so much litter everwhere, broken bottles, plastic cups and what not everywhere on the large set of flat rocks. And yet being a Friday evening there were lots of locals making picnics and spread out over the rocks. The red sun was sinking gently into the sea to the West. Rosé and beer were being consumed. Cigarette butts were everywhere in various states of decays and broken glass too. I found it depressing. We jumped into the sea and swam out a ways but the refus seemed to follow me. Plastic bags like colourful and large jelly fish were floating everywhere around me. Though the view back up to the buildings on the Corniche was picturesque at sunset the water was filthy. 

At home a few days later I began making these images, abstract in a certain way but realistic in my own mind. Many of them are accompanied by a thin black strip running up one side of the canvas. People have asked me what is that about? For me it was a way to set off the light in the rest of the painting but also represented the black armband that in olden days long gone, People wore them on their sleeves to mark the mourning after the death of a loved one. In Italy and in my early days in Aix I often saw men and women wearing them in the streets, in shops and cafes and it was fairly commonplace. But I had never seen them worn in America although they certainly were. Here, Franklin Delano Roosevelt wearing on after the death of his mother. 

Her too is Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia wearing one in a portrait from 1614.

And below, a British physician Richard Norris Wolfenden wearing one in 1905. 

But here in Australia there is a larger historical debate about culture in Australia at the end of the 20th century. The "Black Arm Band" debate concerns the issue of whether or not the History of Australian's founding were based on fact or fiction. Many scholars believed it was fiction so they wore black arm bands to protest the "fictional" views promulgated by so many politicians on the other side of the aisle.  

And so in this picture, among a few others done at the same time, I turned to this idea to find a graphic symbol to complete my thoughts about the wounded sea around us.

No comments:

Post a Comment