What stories are told over the washing…ART FOR WRITERS
….or confidences exchanged over the washing up… When I was younger I resented the women being ‘banished’ to the kitchen at family gatherings, tied to the drudgery of clearing up after the food had been consumed, leaving the men to relax in the living room and would have none of it. Later I knew the kitchen to be the place where the best stories were told and the laughter was the loudest. Dreary repetitive work on your own grinds down the soul; the company of others lightens the burden, helps to carry the day and season it.
I like this painting of Italian women washing clothes in the big communal stone baths I’ve seen on holiday, most of which are now unused or converted to some other purpose. I like the symmetry of the women’s bodies and the bond it creates. A communal setting like this could form the structure of a collection of stories or be the heart of a story itself. And as writers we should allow our imaginations to drift towards the less obvious…what about a woman who is not in the picture even though she has clothes to wash and nowhere else to do it? What if you are outside the communal activity, ostracised for some reason, or unable to engage with others? What about solitary confinement at the bath house or kitchen sink or in the factory or field…
The painting is by Belfast artist Gerald Dillon who left school at 14 and started his working life as a house painter and decorator, but by his earler twenties had started painting canvases, although I think it was many years before he was able to support himself throught art alone. He died in 1971 at the age of 55.