David Inshaw: The Badminton Game - 1973
David Inshaw has given us a most enchanting image — a beautifully conceived conceit. His technique enables him to craft a wonderful intensity. Each leaf and each blade of grass seems to have been individually painted. It is almost Pre-Raphaelite in its precision. However, the painting transcends mere verisimilitude for it is this very meticulousness that seems in some way to be the catalyst for the sense of mystery which emanates from it. The artist conjures a scene which awakens in us a flash of recognition, not that we know the place but that we ought to know it, that we should like to know it, that maybe we will stumble across it in our dreams. The scene is a proxy for those fragments of life which are filed away only to be recalled in flashes of delicious nostalgia. It stands for all those moments which fix themselves in our memory. To quote T. S. Eliot:
‘… the moment in the rose-garden, The moment in the arbour when the rain beat The moment in the draughty church at smokefall.’
And yet the idyll is by no means perfect. One remembers that dreams have a habit of turning nasty. The towering evergreen trees dwarf the two badminton players — a vague just-discerned feeling of unease inhabits the topiary. Perhaps this is because, as the artist has told us, he remembers being in love with both of the badminton players. The long shadows tell us that the light will soon fade, ending the game. The two women will presently move towards the house. And we suddenly comprehend that this is no ordinary dwelling, it exudes a slightly nightmarish quality. The red brick wall which faces us appears to have no openings and is fast succumbing to the choking ivy which before long will be at the roof. The other visible wall is topped by blank windows. How do the rooms on lower floors receive any sunlight? How does one get in? Presumably there is an entrance around the other side but, were it possible for us to walk on that lush grass, past the cool high hedges and the blue hydrangea, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to find that like Alice, we had entered a world where the usual rules do not apply.
Image: By kind permission of the artist
1971 David Hockney: Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, London, Tate Britain
1973 Gerhard Richter: 1024 Colours, Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne
1973 Anselm Kiefer: Resurrexit, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam