Edward Hopper (visual) and Ernest Farres (text)

Presenting poetry and paintings together isn't something new, I remember reading that Turner had the habit of presenting a few verses along with his works. Not many artists have/had this interest, Edward Hopper, as it seems, didn't have it. Nonetheless, all is not lost, and thanks to the internationalized American culture, we can now read poems created by the Catalan writer, Ernest Farres, that are inspired, or for a better choice of words, are dedicated to Hopper's paintings.

Hopper was fascinated by lights and shadows, not like Caravaggio... and not like Turner either... for him, these played a central role in the painting itself. There are mostly two degrees, rarely something in between. He renders American life from his own personal perspective and I like to point out that in his paintings, people usually can be found reading, sitting, waiting and occasionally, engaged in conversation. Not the moment for a detailed article about him and his work, but I will write it, eventually. Overall, I admire his clean and precise style, it has a calm inducing effect on my psyche, which is a good thing.

Farres wrote the volume entitled Edward Hopper in 2006 in Catalan, so what you will read here are translations made by Lawrence Venuti. I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to verses but I found his poems excellent with and without the paintings by their side. Enjoy.

1909 - Summer Interior

1923 - East River
The greatest influence
     my reading of Siddartha
     exercised on me
     had much to do with rivers.
Ever since that moment
     they acquired a meaning
     most profound and symbolic.
     For a while I’ve played with the edge
of knowing we live in a never-ending
     dream. I refer to an urban dream jam-packed
     with buildings, hydrocarbons, aromatic mint teas,
     textile factories, tanneries, and a river
that reflects the essence of dusk and provokes
     a weird effect, cathartic and liberating. The city
     institutes laws and rivers are rebels that try their damndest
     to break them (although they rarely get away with it).
Every river is a type
     of dream that lies inside
     a more global dream of life,
     and flowing it resembles us:
descending from pretty far away
     by fits and starts, it disseminates
     and embodies the spirit
     of what could have been.

1925 - House by the Railroad

1926 -     Railroad Sunset - Whitney Museum of American Art

1931 - The Barber Shop

1932 - Room in New York

1933 - Burly Cobb's House, South Truro

1937 - Sheridan Theatre

1938 - Compartment C, Car 193
Face stern, hair
more or less blonde, eyes
with an inward-looking glint,
skin in the pink, wearing
a stare-till-you're-bored attitude
in a black dress that hugged her breasts
and a pair of long legs, in good working order,
she looked real swell, sure enough,
and "independent," as the saying goes.

The down time on the train was just
the ticket for stealing looks at her
as she sat across the aisle, reading
—poor kid— with such concentration
that at dusk she completely missed
the sun's last rays burning in the west,
stuck to the limitless vault of the sky.

1940 - Office at Night - Walker Art Center
They stayed at the office, at night, alone,
and the tense atmosphere
wherein they find themselves plunges them
into uncertainty. The workplace
is their habitat, the substitute
for their homes. Forces
suprapersonal constrain
them both (this is called not letting on).
Beyond the slightest doubt,
shyness has taken root in them.
After knocking off, their cares are less intense
and before long forgotten (Deo gratias).
Private people suffering in private places
or, better than places, in a warren
of white walls and functional furniture.
Disturbed when confronting the idea
of a night sky filled with stars, the man,
the atomized and lonely man,
clings to the messiness of his desk.
The woman, standing at the file cabinet,
fishes for documents or something-or-other.
Sure enough, said woman’s dreams
and the man’s scruples converge
in a chronic fiasco. Anxiety
invades her till she loses
every point of reference.
This is the closed circle
through which they sink
from spiritual withdrawal
to absolute, physical solitude.

Poems mainly taken from The International Literary Quarterly, thanks.
Till next time, research these two artists, tell me if you like Hopper, yes or no, motivate your opinions, this also goes for Farres.

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