Thursday, 14 March 2019

Empty Chairs

The image of the empty chair has a potent symbolic value for artists and photographers. It denotes both absence and an imagined presence. When Van Gogh was immersed in his personal identity crisis in the Yellow House in Arles he employed the subject of the empty chair to stand in for himself and his reluctant companion, Gauguin, in a pair of symbolic portraits. These postcards have no explicit symbolic content but that doesn’t stand in the way of what the viewer can read into them. Some seem to anticipate the imminent arrival of an animated crowd while others suggest abandonment, a sense that they may never again be occupied. A few are enveloped in a deep melancholy suggesting they won’t be adding to the sum of human happiness any time soon. The ultimate in empty chairs is the Electric Chair, built with a single purpose, temporary occupation and no reason for consideration of human comfort.

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