Sharda Patasar writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
“Do you believe in fairies?” the gentleman asked.
I looked at my friend Nyla, not too sure what my answer should be.
“Just a yes or a no. It’s either you believe or you don’t,” he said, looking at us both.
“Umm…well…yes? I suppose,” I answered.
Nyla’s was a confident ‘yes’.
The questions came fast after that.
“Elves? Hobbits? Angels? Aliens?”
The latter was by far the easiest to answer – yes. Angels – no. Fairies, elves, hobbits – complicated.
I stared at a large painting directly in front of me. It looked like a combination of the landscapes of Avatar and Wonderland. Next to it were two smaller paintings. They looked like excerpts of the larger one. The longer one looked, the more the paintings began to take on the shape of fractions of the larger.
I had, after all, grown up in Enid Blyton’s fairy world where mushrooms served as umbrellas on a rainy or sunny day in fairyland, where toys came alive when everyone went to bed and where there were trees in which magical characters with names like Moonface, Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot lived. Then there was Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz and the animals in Wind in the Willows. These were lands to which children had access. If you had trees in your yard it was a bonus for you could then climb them and sit there in the company of magical creatures, escaping in those hours, the real world of school and mathematics! You saw things from that height too that you couldn’t see at ground level.
You look at the work of artist Sarah Beckett, and it conjures that lost world, at least for those of us who had once known the magic of fairies, pixie dust and wishing chairs. The vibrant colours and magical quality of the art draws the viewer in, even if one were to cast a cursory glance around the gallery. Each painting can stand as a full story or as fragments of the whole, depends on how one looks at it. They are odes to the local landscape and they resonate with us, for even though they are dreamlike, they are familiar too.
There is no real difference between the fairytale world and ours if you were to look closely. Harry Potter still has its Dark Lord, the hobbits must still be wary of the evil of the ring and the Faraway Tree still has an angry pixie and a dame who slaps children. Our reality is contained within the fantastical. The difference is that hope, beauty and goodness all triumph in the fantasy world.
The work as our questioning gentleman remarked “is uplifting” and indeed it is. These are colours that the media has robbed us of. These are minute stories within the dark landscapes in which we now live. And the reason I suppose the question of whether or not I believe in “imaginary” beings is so complicated is because the worlds that they inhabit are real to me and a part of those worlds are the beings that inhabit them. They are worlds of colour and magic and they are happy spaces because even if there is an intrusion of darkness, we know that the light will triumph. They are places where there are no boundaries to the imagination.
There has never been a question of whether the fairytale world exists or not because it has always existed. It exists in the happiness that one experiences when they see a particularly gorgeous sunset or look through polarised sunglasses at the sea and see the sharp greens and can make out most of the fishes underneath, or wake up before 6 am and hear the birds chit chatting outside the window. Those worlds exist in the variety of colours and music that surround us. We play with them and interpret them through our own imagination so that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is as much a reality as Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree.
The fact that most of the larger paintings at the exhibition last Tuesday had been sold before opening time, speaks of people’s need not only to possess a piece of Beckett’s work, but that there is something in the magical that resonates with them. The paintings excite the imagination in their colour, composition and playful quality. Given that the general pursuit of human beings is the search for that one thing that creates excitement it is no wonder that Beckett’s work has found homes all around the world and has earned her the Leonardo da Vinci, World Award of Arts, 2018.
Atlantic Lovesong opened on January 23 at the Horizons Art Gallery, Mucurapo Road, St James, and ran until January 27.