Diptych 02: Oliver & Harry – “Enter Life More Fully”
“Enter Life More Fully”
2018 mixed media on canvas
200 x 180 cm - Diptych
200 x 90 cm - Panel
by Angel Correa
“I pretend to ignore you, but I really just miss you, so much my Dear.” - Anon
I am sometimes drawn to the writings of Michael Meade, whose career is centred around what he terms ‘cultural healing’. In one of Meade’s works, a particular passage became the inspiration for these works.
Meade writes: “Whether it be an individual, a community or a country, when faced with tragedy or fearful uncertainty, we either become bigger and enter life more fully, or else we accept a diminished life and resign ourselves to a smaller way of being”.
What stands out starkly is a set of six men whose heads are placed at their feet. Situated astride them are six couples who decided, on one level, to ‘face their fearful uncertainty’ – to ‘enter life more fully’ by loving each other.
What isn’t apparent at first glance is that one member of each couple (the left figure) is actually the figure depicted elsewhere, whose head is placed at his feet.
Certain visual cues attempt to strengthen each couple’s bond and give it more meaning, both in life and in the afterlife:
The printed backdrop links each loving couple to the lifeless body. The band of colour matches that of the left-most figure; in my depiction, it was he who paid the ultimate price for a life more fully lived, however brief.
What is important is to realise that each of the lifeless men was, not so long ago, hanged on a single day. Six countries worldwide continue to enact the death penalty for people found to be in same-sex relationships: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia.
Despite media coverage, we do not know the names of these six departed souls, or the strength of their love. When placed alongside those they dared to be with, these figures attempt to convey the damned-if-you-do; damned-if-you-don’t position of countless others.
Up to the moment of their passing, a truly existential schism was the price they paid for their ‘place’ in the social construct which ultimately stigmatised and shamed them before friends, family and community.
The backdrop of each canvas is adorned with a symphony of strewn flowers, each more fragmented as the series progresses. The flowers refer to a Latin-American custom, one in which women wear garments printed with black-and-white flowers to dignify a funeral; doing so pays heed to the notion of proper respect for the deceased.
Each is meant to depict a secret ‘bouquet’ passed from mother to son; from sister to brother: “I had to do this, and do so publicly, but know that I still love you.”