Raising Lazarus: After Sickert

By | 1 March 2017

This is an old story:
an artist’s hands
to manipulate,
working to ease the rigid corpse
rebirthed through mottled shadows;
the dangerous pulse of vermillion
in oblivion’s maw.

We say we know how this ends –
this evocation
nightmare or dream
this hovering at the cusp,
dissolving finally,
an almost-touch –

But canvas after canvas we try again:
the mastery of art
over evanescence,
the possibility of form
that rises
from the sludge of miasma –

and always
the impenetrable space –
beyond the canvas or deep
in its hidden folds –
the suction of encroaching dark.

In response to The Raising of Lazarus by Walter Sickert, 1929, Islington, London.
Oil on wallpaper, detached then laid on canvas, 243.5 x 91.5 cm. Gift of William Bowmore AO OBE
through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 1990, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

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