A Clockwork Crow
by Paul D Robertson
Winning Piece, 2009
This piece is important to me. It provides a clear example, perhaps the most clear I have, of the narrative symbolism that lies at the core of my work.
I am an existentialist. This sounds complex (it isn’t), and a lot of people don’t know what it means exactly so I will explain briefly. It comes basically from working out how to live in the absence of a belief in God; from atheism.
If God is removed from our ideas about what constitutes our lives, then it would seem that what we are would be, by that very fact, diminished. It denies us the framework that has traditionally defined our place in the universe, and it also appears to deny what generates the fundamentals of our morality. I don’t believe that this is the case.
Existentialism means that we exist, and that is all. There is no afterlife in this belief, no final judgment or even, for that matter, a judge. It doesn’t allow for the reassuring presence of a mighty being watching over us and directing the events of the world. So it seems that the meaning of our lives is less. But it works differently for me.
That our lives have a finite and absolute end does more than leave us homeless and lost in the void. The only thing that is certain in our future is the surety of our own death. This sounds bleak, and in many ways it is. But what it also does is apply to our lives and existence an ultimate importance to us, a preciousness that comes from the very belief that life is fleeting. It gives each moment that we live power and BEAUTY because this is all we have.
This is what most of my work is about.
Clockwork Crow is a potent example. I use narrative symbolism because of its clarity to me personally, and I try and accomplish beauty through aesthetics as part of the narrative: this is where I find meaning in my life – in the exquisite splendour of the instant that we exist.
People have different interpretations, always – art is subjective after all. But what I intended when I painted it was very clear to me.
The beautiful girls holding each other… it is the perfect and absolute moment. They are doomed to change and this is what defines their beauty and gives it value and importance. They are comforting each other in the face of this.
The crow in the window symbolizes change and death. The clock represents the inevitable passage of time.
We are trapped in the moment, if it really is all that we have. If religion – God – is removed from belief: then we must find comfort and solace, we must find MEANING in each instant we exist.
It is THIS that constitutes out lives.