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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Oil Paintings on Shakespearean Themes

#96 "CORIOLANUS"
Description of Painting - Oil on Canvas 20" x 36"
by Hannah Tompkins

 

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The dominant male figs represents Coriolanus. It is fragmented, bleeding and distorted..half man, half beast. There is a. look of dread and abandonment in the ashen, skeletal face.

In place of a heart, there is instead a bleeding rectangle, on which rests an armored collar bearing 3 medallions, for his 3 oaken garlands awarded for valor.

The figure is also composed of rectangles suggesting the constrictions of rigid regimentation. It stands on a pedestal, the front platform forming 3 rectangles. The base of seemingly solid stones is crumbling. Darkness and nothingness envelop the heap.

Behind Coriolanus is a blood red sun suspended in a gall-green whirlpool...HIS world of burning conflicts. It is obstructed by 3 rectangles, repeating the base form. One of the forms blindfolds his eyes, as if his inner vision is obscured by the baseness of false values.

To the left are 3 figures: his mother, wife and son, depicting three generations. The mother is defiant, the wife defeated and the son demanding with outstretched hand. He too is blindfolded.
These 3 figures also stand on a base of 3 rectangles. Above their heads are radiating forms like shattered glass.. shattered lives and shattered hearts. Fragile as glass is the soul and psyche of being.

Dualities and triads, derived from biblical, mythical and philosophical sources emphasize Shakespeare's metaphors. For example:
Birth     Heaven     Father     Fear      Hope     Mind
Life       Earth        Mother    Force    Faith      Body
Death    Man         Child       Lies       Love     Spirit
Use of triplets in the painting accentuate the triads

3 Figures   3 Generations   3 pedestal stones   3 medals   etc.

The word 'base' and 'base slave' are used frequently in the play. The definition has a double meaning:

BASE: noun: Bottom: foundations chief element in anything: point of beginning any act.

BASE: adj. Inferior in quality: morally inferiors menial: degrading: of little value: lows vile.

The ambiguity of this double meaning becomes significant in Coriolonus' inner struggle.

Conceding to false values can be fatal. It debases and destroys the core (or heart) of life.

Those who cannot resolve the conflict are transformed into fragmented beasts that cannibalize the nobleness.

And such was the fate of the noble Roman Carillons.

FIN


Copyright © 1990 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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