At home

At home in a Matisse world

The lockdown may be slowly coming to a halt but the echoes will remain. Thrust into this world of interiors privileged ones like me have found ourselves living in a Matisse’ painting of over bright colours. Housed in bright red rooms patterns slither past floors and climb walls. Leaves spring in tandem tracing furniture, and twines give birth to more, slowly wrapping around us. They halt at the windows knocking against the panes for escape.

The pressure of holding ourselves within the boundaries seems almost impossible. We’re leaking everywhere. Bits of hair, clothing, shouted words, the clangs of pots and pans or the silence of those in solitary, leak out of exhausts past the seal of windows and the bottom of doors.

For many others it has meant the opposite. The desperation to find that space to take shelter has meant something else. out in the exposed unrelenting sky their search has been in awful contrast to our sheltered angst. It’s clear we’re always only a scratching distance from the Neolithic. Progress can be a myth depending on who you are. The forests may have changed metamorphosed into urban ones of bricks and mortar and engines that caterwaul but they can still swallow you whole.

History tells us we came inside and made homes years ago. It was an extraordinary achievement the creation of these constructed barriers. Space within space. Shelter warmth and a place to hide away and be your private unfiltered self. We drew and painted in caves made beads set up mantelpieces and hearths.

5000yrs ago, before the pyramids before the stone henge the Orcadian in the hamlet of Skara Brae (in Orkney, Scotland) made sandstone houses near the sea. They moved in and made life inside. But these were not just shelters. They were centres of style and creativity. On their shelves could be found carved stone balls, grooved clay pots and jars, bone bead necklaces and other decorational items. These were all emblems of being home

To gaze at these objects, surviving from so distant a time is to be confronted with the great paradox of all history: that it is at all times a dialogue between the alien and the familiar.

(Simon Schama in A History of Britain)


Schama, Simon, A History of Britain ed BBC Worldwide 2001


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