Stillness. Easy to overlook. In fact, I usually pass right on by without a thought. Some could call them boring, but a still life is a meditation whispering a secret. A trade secret to most of the all time greats.
Meditation, like this painting, offers keys and hinges. Quiets the banging on our obstacle doors. A key, unlocking. A hinge-supported swinging. I hold this idea that if I am still, I can find the key and fashion a hinge that swings my problemdoor open.
The key is usually an observation, finding the root cause, the heart of the matter. If I take the time to un-ego myself enough to finally see it. The hinge is working with the structures of things, of organizations, of people. Finding out how they swing.
The structure of this still life reveals a beautiful hinge. A circular center holds roundripe berries. Forms a circular mass filling a cup of layered circles. In motion but still — the hinge around which all the other shapes turn. A series of squares radiate out, overlapping. Each piece receiving motion from its texture or position. Your eye follows the outside objects, starting at the knife, swinging around to the cork to the orange brick back and around to the knife. A slow revolution.
This work is more than structure, it is also a speaking key. Speaking not of berries or of brick, but of foundness. Of deeply touching the those things around you. A tender word embraced, a heartfelt thanks given, time to understand offered. Finding the keys at your fingertips.
Taking center stage today is Matisse, that glorious virtuoso, giving it up for these talented ladies. The fun of this painting is the way Matisse uses pattern and color to “play” off of one another, creating an energetic, inviting composition. He visually mimics the beat of music with rhythmic patterns that echo and repeat throughout the painting. So lets turn up the volume- hey!
The first rhythm I notice is the series of palm leaves swaying behind the women. If you let your eye follow each tendriled finger, up and down, and up and down each leaf. . . you will start to fall into a lilting beat. Next, notice the dancing reds. The staccato saw tooth pattern of the couch’s red throw echos the triangular trim of the purple pants. The yellow squares of the rug steady the background, thumping out a deep base line.
Watch the melody played with the curves of the women’s bodies. Look at the yellow woman– the curves of her shoulders, her knees, her hands. Follow those curves to the right to the purple lady’s bottom, knees and feet. A punctuation of circles of breast, of guitar and apple. Repeat.
The green of leaves refrains down through the furniture of the couch and table. Yellow dress plays yellow guitar plays pants pattern. And my favorite, the “XOXO” pattern in the black ottoman. The colors play like notes and the patterns play like rhythm.
Despite their masculine solidity, these women are entirely feminine and welcoming, at ease against a background of high-octane abstraction. Despite the static heft of the figures, an energy vibrates. Relaxed and happy, you really hope they’ll invite you to stay.. .and listen to some real music.