The Indolence of Isolation

Here is a new painting I’ve done during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. It was a canvas I didn’t particularly care for, so I sanded it and painted over it with Mars Brown.

As a result, Mars Brown is an overall influence. Any kind of work at all on an area brought out the undercolor with its sedimentary lift. Right now I am only using odorless mineral spirits as a medium.

“The King of Cups in Isolation,” oil on canvas by Melwell, 20×16

This particular painting deserves an explanation. It’s one thing to paint a naked woman in the bath, but it’s another thing altogether to paint a naked man in the bath, especially a mature man.

There are several references being made in the painting, and I want to cover each of them briefly.

First, the title, “The King of Cups in Isolation,” is a Tarot reference. The King of Cups as a symbol speaks of balanced male and feminine energy. He holds all the positive qualities of both masculine and feminine. In this painting, the softness of surrender (being naked and in the tub) is balanced by the knife in his right hand. A soft heart rests quietly on the tray before him in the bath. His maturity seems to neutralize any sexuality, yet, his vulnerability has rendered him charming and relatable. He is not muscular, but he is not soft.

The second reference is to a fairly recent Dutch movie called “Borgman.”

“Borgman” is a fairytale, as old as the Brothers Grimm: Once you invite the devil into the house, there’s no end to your trouble. According to Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, “If you can tolerate watching it once, it will burrow into your brain and never get out again; your only recourse will be dragging your friends into the nightmare and seeing it again.”

Both references speak of the homely luxuries of isolation, whether self-imposed or constraints because of the epidemic. On the one hand, people in cities and in concentrations of populations are experiencing this like a plague. In other places, it is being experienced in a tub with a tray of fruit and a bottle and a glass of wine. The big fish of our subconscious float by while we soak.

Hopefully we are mature enough to get through this.