The artist claimed
that ‘all art aspires
to the condition of music’
to complete autonomy.
That despite the seaport setting
his mural was abstract
all references were internal
contained no maritime image
carried no message.
A sea-going man
admiring the painting
claimed that in the colour composition
he found many nautical shapes
In the top left quarter
a blue and yellow signal flag
when flown at sea
has an unambiguous meaning
I WISH TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2006. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2006 was Janice Galloway.
Spare, dry, laconic and to the very heart of the Art.
The poem is a response to the not uncommon circumstance of a reader, or a viewer, interpreting a piece of work in an unexpected way. Of course the reaction of the reader/viewer/listener is an essential third element, along with the artist's conception and the making of the work, in the completion of the artwork. Still, however clearly and strongly the artist has expressed the original concept it is inevitably open to a variety of readings.
In the first stanza the quotation is a statement by Schopenhauer which is often used in the debates regarding the objective and subjective, abstraction and representation in art. Music is traditionally seen as the purest, most autonomous, art form.
The layman in the poem naturally responds to the abstract design according to his own experience as he would to a Rorschach inkblot but then this cuts both ways, the artist had chosen the shapes and colours and so that despite his macho posturing perhaps he subconsciously expresses a longing to be understood.