‘...in the avoidance of the anecdote, the substitution of a situation that is equivocal and suggestive, demanding the imaginative co-creation of the observer,....’ David Sweetman. ‘Gauguin. A complete life’.
The woman in Gauguin`s painting kneels forward, knees apart, propped up on her elbows in what seems an awkward position. She fills the frame, supported by simple bands of white and yellow sand. The background is a thin, barely differentiated wavy strip of land and sea. Here at last I can settle down to a simple figure study.
I focus, trying to get my drawn lines to be precise to the original figure. Usually my drawing is not accurate to nature but here, with a figure, any straying from the truth will look awkward and false. OK Paul, but why have you chosen that pose, it cannot be normal for this woman to pose like that? She looks like a frog!
I begin to get a woozy feeling that once again I am sliding into a symbolic painting and that this is no simple figure painting at all but a synthesis of ideas. I proceed through the layers of colour, blending one layer on top of another, sometimes scraping pastel away to expose some of the lower layers: the hours pass like seconds. I am deep in the process when the power of the painting begins to take over, my clever little mind gets passed by. I am part of the scene, part of the woman and of the beach, part of a universal truth.
Gauguin is calling upon my imagination to see her as the present embodiment of the eternal woman who carries life forward through time , the mother of us all. Her breasts dangle beneath her, nurturing the earth, she spreads her legs and births everything into existence, dreaming us up as she stares off into space and time. Her strong brown legs and arms support her firmly on the earth. She is Frog Woman of my local West Coast First Nations traditional mythology. First creator, maker of the people, Eve.