Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Keep Silent by Lynda Waterhouse

I keep his picture by my desk. His dark eyes stare at me. His hair is long and he needs a shave. His lips are set in a determined downward curve. He is trying a bit too hard to look like he doesn’t care about me and yet he is carrying a placard which he is defying me to read and consider. Upon it are written the words,
Keep silent, unless your speech is better than silenceThe man in the picture is Salvator Rosa (1615 -1673), artist, actor, philosopher, and possible bandit. I first encountered him at The Wallace Collection which owns his painting of Apollo and the Cumaean Sybil. The self portrait is usually in the National Gallery but can now be seen in a wonderful exhibition of his paintings at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Keep silent, unless your speech is better than silence
His advice seems to run counter to all the pressure on me to twitter, buzz, hum and fritter my words and myself in order to get myself ‘out there’. Should I deck myself out in the literary equivalent of a meat dress and get noticed?
Keep silent, unless your speech is better than silence
John Le Carre recently said in a recent interview that he likes to be the quiet guest at the dinner table. If we are expected to ‘make a noise’ all the time are we sacrificing a bit of our creative self? After his death Salvator Rosa became the darling of the Romantics because he refused to paint to order. He painted scathing pictures showing Fortuna scattered her riches on those that least deserve them. I would love Fortuna to scatter some random riches and recognition in my direction.
Keep silent, unless your speech is better than silenceHis words challenge me as I write. Silent images flicker on the screen of my imagination over and over again and I dance with them until they are reformed into words. Then I can only hope that these words can successfully transmit those images and emotions into another’s imagination so that a story or a poem comes into existence. A story that is better than silence.

1 comment:

Miriam Halahmy said...

Thanks so much for introducing me to this fascinating character and I do hope the workshops went well.