Re-Imaginings Index  |  Richard Horvath Artworks

Digital print Re-imagining 39

Re-Imagining 39:
Ennui

2016
Inkjet on watercolour paper
90 x 60 centimetres

The plan to base a print on English painter Walter Sickert’s Ennui, a depiction of an apathetic couple morosely confined to indoors, was initially put on hold because I was unable to define the means to interpret it until I read Lionel Shriver’s book, We Need to Talk About Kevin. Shriver tells the story a couple whose child who seems destined to turn out bad, but it was the description of the couple's move from a bohemian neighbourhood to a suburban house and the weight of parenting chores upon the free spirited narrator Eva that provided the missing element for Ennui.

The print portrays a couple disengaged from each other and their baby crawling on a dull grey rug without a toy in sight. The couples clothing displays an apathy towards fashion, their posture and physique revealing a disinterest in their appearance. Any dreams they might have could be contained in the magazines on the coffee table or what the man is reading on his smartphone, their backs are turned to the world outside, glimpsed as light shining through a crack in the curtain, while the clock on the wall registers the passing of time. Their domestic environment has the charm of a waiting room with its dull tones and the generic off-the-shelf art work.

The composition employs an inverted triangle formed by the figures with the baby at the focal point of the apex. This arrangement is offset by a series of horizontal and vertical planes, the parents’ feet picket out by the light falling between the coffee table and its shadow. The stripes of the rug lead the eye towards the couch and its occupants and continues through to the folds in the curtain. The lines of perspective formed by this arrangement is balanced by the horizontal direction of the floating floor.

Walter Sickert, Ennui, c.1914: Tate Gallery
The Counterlife, Lionel Shriver’s speculative fictions: The New Yorker