Water Lillies

The entrance to the purpose built gallery opens into a pair of oval rooms. There is an immediate impact of colour and form from the long curved panels that foreshadows some of the details to be revealed later on in the piece. This is the overture: the sparkling blues, shocking greens, and cooling lilacs blend seamlessly and lay the foundation for a grand work in several movements: a symphony in physical form. Each panel stands by itself as a completed work, similarly themed but still unique, impervious to the scrutiny of its audience of millions. 

The first movement is a spritely sequence of unambiguous leaves and flowers situated in still water which reflects and amplifies their easy beauty, while the second movement is altogether slower and more deliberate: as if great effort is required to express the figures and their environment. A gradual progression through the gallery reveals a delicious paradox: the panels were created over time as an intentional sequence but became less defined as the artist's eyesight declined until, in the third and final movement of the painted symphony, the panels were great swathes of colour with little to no detail at all. They hint at the subject matter almost without depicting it, relying on a continuation of the background and colours with muted light and exaggerated shadows for meaning. And yet, and yet, they are no less perfect than the early panels with their intricate layering of colours and brush strokes.

If you visit early in the day you might be lucky enough to stand in the middle of one of the rooms and turn slowly, allowing your eyes to take in the continuous sequence of panels, absorbing the work without focusing on or interrogating any specific part of it, drinking in the layers of colour: the use of shadows to express light, the many layers of pigment resulting in hues that defy traditional labels. 

Then later on, as you leave the rooms behind, remain in the perfect silence the work created. Hear the dying echoes of the final harmonies played by the painted orchestra, and meticulously catalogue the experience for future recall. 

Katherine Horejsi
Sep 9 2021

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