“Tableau: a group of models or motionless figures representing a scene.” Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary. What does this scene represent? To me it speaks of domesticity; the never-ending care of others…especially if one is a woman. It isn’t a complaint. It’s just the way it is.
I found this tableau in Saint Germain des Prés on the first night I arrived in Paris in October 2012. I had come from another part of Europe and was exhausted from long flight delays. I’d already been away from Australia for a week and I still had another week left of my solo trip. I felt lonely for my family and Paris seemed aggressive. Outside my hotel window brakes-screeching buses honked their horns at cars and pedestrians. Police cars and ambulances raced through traffic with ear-splitting sirens. My hotel room was tiny and so close to Boulevard Saint Michel that the sirens wailed within my tiny ‘cell’ rather than without. Good old Paris plumbing; the toilet made wierd gurgling noises every time somebody in another room flushed. How would I sleep? It had been a mistake to come back to this city. Reality contradicted Romance. But I was here to work so I picked up my camera and went outside.
Though I started out feeling low, my senses were alert and on the look-out in the fascinating Saint Germain des Prés surroundings. Without realising it, Paris was working its magic on me. Ever so slowly I began to have fun. One of the photos I took that evening became this drawing. When I got back to my room I wrote in my journal “I went out tonight in the worst mood, feeling so hostile towards the crowds and the noise. Despite all that I did feel some of the charm. Much of the time I felt that my affair with Paris was over! It probably isn’t. Despite my misery at the ‘shock of the new’ ie being back in Paris on a thoroughly swarming-with-crowds Saturday night, and my thinking I don’t like it any more, I still have taken some lovely photos”.
This drawing could have been called “Art Meets Life”, “Life Imitates Art”, or “Strange Days” (the latter from a “Doors” album). In the end I chose “Tableau”. It doesn’t matter that only one of the figures is a living human. The motionless dog waits expectantly for his human. The paste-up smiling housewife eternally mops while the woman sees to the dog’s needs. The paste-up head of Sid Vicious has an A (for ‘anarchy’) coming out of his mouth. I couldn’t have thought this up. It happened in front of me. Extraordinary ordinary life. And … I still hold a candle for Paris.
Early next morning the streets were silent. That is when I got the photo for the drawing which became “Quiet“. I still like Paris best first thing in the morning and yet I appreciate that sometimes one needs people (and dogs) about to get a source photo such as the one for “Tableau”.
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