That one is either alone or one is not, can be equally terrifying thoughts. In art, loneliness manifests in these dualities of quiet and communion, between isolation and community.
When asked to think about an artwork that evokes the idea of loneliness, the painting The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo comes immediately to mind. Painted soon after her divorce with Diego Rivera, this painting can be viewed alongside another painting from a few years earlier, titled Frieda and Diego Rivera.
Two Fridas is a powerful double self portrait, wherein Frida is seen holding the hand of her own alter ego (or identical twin) with both portraits bearing exposed hearts. Further, one particular heart seems cut and torn open with the artery running down her hands and cut off by surgical pincers. It is almost as if the Frida with the opened heart seeks sustenance and healing from the twin whose hand she clasps. At one level this image could seem literal but the power of the work lay in the manner in which the painting is rendered. On might observe the hand gestures, the manner in which the pincers are held bleeding on the white gown. In particular, I find the agitation and the ferocious abstraction of overcast sky that forms the backdrop a very compelling image.
When I think about loneliness or being lonely, multiple layers of feelings intersect in me. Many of them also deal with the urban nature of my existence. In these modern times, the ideal pursuit of loneliness is derailed from the physical space which it has always been associated with. Going to a faraway place in order to seek solitude and reassess yourself has been an unattainable reality. Yet again, people catch up with stolen moments in between their routine lives in order to recuperate from their restricted/assigned conditions where they live or work.
Loneliness is in many respects an experience where you are being taken away by an inner logic of yours, from the very physical existence of where you are. Once you land there, an introspective mood of yours creates a ‘balcony’. A balcony in which you stand, make yourself comfortable, observe things around and yet not get involved in anything you see or understand. You may be under the shadow of immediate realities or an unavoidable catastrophe around the corner, yet your balcony comforts you with a base to stand, a position to observe and an area to wander in.
Sudhir Patwardhan’s Balcony (acrylic on canvas, 1999) comes to my mind when I think about loneliness. His never-ending engagement with modern life closely observes many complex aspects of urban existence. A crowd among a crowd is the way we conceive ourselves. A ‘city without an escape’, that is how we understand our plight. But the balconies of the Maximum City in many ways reassure us of the loneliness we are desperately pursuing. A faraway destination where triviality of everyday existence can’t poke you; that faraway destination is in-built in you out of grave necessity, a necessity as important as your breath.
Self-quarantine in many ways reassures us of our inherent nature of loneliness. Most of us desperately look to quarantine ourselves from the rest of the world, a world we all think drags us into unwanted realities, which we are not prepared to take in. This is the time where the world is in quarantine in order to reassure its worth.
Loneliness in Art is a weekly series where artists select a work that best describes the mood.
(Compiled by Vandana Kalra)
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