The stories that we can’t always read…Art for Writers
First of September and for many it’s the start of something – a new academic year, a new life, new season in the garden – and a stepping away from something, even if it is only summer.
For all sorts of reasons this painting by a Bengal female artist Anjolie Ela Menon appealed to me. It’s called Eden (note the apples) and that was the start of something new too.
Menon was born in 1940, of Bengali and American parents, and her earliest memories must have been coloured by the political conflict that tore the Indian sub-continent apart and created three new countries. This year is the 70th anniversary of Independence and of Partition.
I know very little about her except what Wikipedia has to offer and the numerous paintings I found on various art gallery websites. But what is clear that she established herself as an artist at a very early age. She had already sold some of her paintings by the age of 15 and when she was 18 she held her first solo exhibition. Awarded a scholarship by the French government, she studied in Paris and has been influenced by both Western and Eastern art. She is best known for her religious-themed works and from what I’ve seen she uses iconic images from Christianity, Hindu and Buddhism – and perhaps from other faiths that I didn’t recognise.
And I like this painting, although the images on the woman’s body probably tell stories I can’t read (there is a snake twisting around her leg as well as the ‘real’ one in the foreground – I got that reference).
Ok, what can we take from it as writers?
That we shouldn’t be scared of things that we don’t immediately understand. A lot of poems, for example, don’t give up their meaning easily. They have to be worked at and even then some elements may allude us. That doesn’t mean we are dud readers and should give up.
I will never forget taking my youngest son to Notre Dame in Paris. He was four and stood in the middle of the 800 year old cathedral looking up, totally unaware of the hundreds of tourists around him, or of us, his family standing close by.
We were not a church-going family so this was not the kind of space he was used to being in, but I don’t think the orginal designers would have been disappointed with the look of concentrated wonder on his face…
He got it. Not all of it, not even most of it, but he still got something of what the contrast between the light of the stained glass windows and the dark interior was meant to evoke.
Back to Anjolie Ela Menon’s Eden.
What I see is a woman making her own story. Not necessarily a good story, or the best, but she is an actor in her own life.