Postcards from Paris, to absent friends
I came across a couple of chairs whilst walking through the Luxembourg Gardens, late in September, 2017. I stood for a moment and thought about the placement of the chairs: who sat on them, last. How did the conversation go? I slumped onto the one on the right, looking into the gardens with its sun-spattered fountains, red-coated school kids and bluetoothed joggers. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've felt real loneliness and this was one of them. I found myself imagining friends sitting with me on the empty chair. Some I would call when I got back to the hotel, others, sadly gone from this world.
I blamed my melancholy on the city. I fell under Paris's spell when I visited with a friend during my college years and every six months I make the trip to the City of Lights for work. I can't deny my pure elation when emerging from the metro at the Place Saint-Michel, calling into the musty tobacconist on the corner of the Rue Saint-André-des-Arts before making my way to a small familiar Left Bank hotel. The breeze from the Seine, the bustling pavement cafes, the hot chocolate and pastries, the food hall at Bon Marche! And then, after a couple of days of being there, out of nowhere, an unfathomable sorrow arrives. I start reflecting on past mistakes and contemplating the future. I became the depressed friend, arriving on Paris's doorstep during an intimate dinner party: A nuisance. After many solo visits I've become accustomed to Paris's nonchalance, yet when I'm home the longing to return never dwindles.
A chair is a simple support facility, making life easier for us by completely taking away the load. The phrase 'are you sitting down?' is enough to know that bad news is about to unfold. Even the most uncomfortable of chairs will stop your legs from buckling under you. A chair is a safety net, albeit not that far from the floor. An empty chair screams absence and in that way they represent people. They are designed to fit our bodies, effortlessly. They mirror our natural resting pose - they embrace us, they bridge the gap between the stoic and the neurotic.
Back home in Wales, I made a drypoint etching of the chairs in the Luxembourg Gardens. I pulled seven prints from the plate. Some are as they came off the press, others I continued to work on with paint and ink.
Postcards from Paris, to absent friends. xxx