Worth watching endlessly, in silence

Flowing water flushing the reflections of London’s fiery electric lights out and towards the sea can be watched for hours on end, or until the cold wind off the River Thames freezes you into an icicle.

I took this picture outside the restaurant where a friend of mine was celebrating his birthday.

This is his birthday gift, a painting by Sevostianov, on whom I did a few posts over the last year (mother and daughter, still life, cityscape, cute boys and puppies, and sex). I find it strangely related to the night scene I photographed.

Vladimir Sevostianov. The Night at a Cafe.

In this painting, the two ladies are not talking, but contemplating the space in front of them, which physically includes the viewer, who – nonetheless – is not present in their world. They neither try to engage the viewer, nor to show that the viewer’s attention is unwelcome. They are locked in a world of their own,

This is achieved via the shape of the table which is subtly different from a circle. It must be a round table, but they are painted somehow sitting on ONE side of it, while the viewer is faced by the semicircular edge that is not angularly unwelcome, but represents a certain line, like a state boundary, beyond which no one is allowed without a visa.

We can keep watching them, for our attention does not seem to disturb their magically protected space. Why should we be watching them then?

I am sure answers to this question can be very individual. I am interested in them because they represent a couple of beings who are so close they do not need to exchange words to understand each other. They don’t have to talk to share their thoughts (and they don’t seem to be engaged in a conversation). The colours used by the artist imply the two women are both of the same leaven, and “cut from the same cloth” (although they are NOT wearing the same skirts and blouses).

They are content, contemplative, and understanding. They are the kind of friends who can enjoy spending time together not doing anything, not talking, and not laughing, but just being in the presence of each other.

This is the kind of friendship very rare in today’s world where friendly relationships are often defined by consumerist desires and time pressure. We often don’t have time to sit still and remain silent even with our closest friends. This is the kind of friendship I envy in a good sense of the verb. With a friend like this, you can THINK together on something that’s important to both of you. This “one thing” the couple in the painting thinks about is symbolised by the glass positioned between them. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the red liquid inside the glass is meant to be a symbol of life. Yet, the artist did not choose the bright red paint by accident. The artist wanted to emphasise the glass, and the only interpretation I can suggest, is that it is a metaphor of the single issue on which the shared thoughts of the two ladies are focused.

Just like I like watching water and reflections of city lights in it, I love watching people who are in harmony with themselves and each other. This painting is also a reminder of the importance of cherishing friends like this. We are often attracted to people who promise immediate fun, entertainment, and drive, telling our “intimate” friends we could meet up later.  Next week or the week after. Or after X-Mas. And then, when the thrill is gone, and the thrilling, entertaining people dissolve in the surrounding landscape, we discover the intimate friends are somehow…more distant then they used to be. We still could sit down together with them and “keep silent” about something, but the telepathy is gone.

On my way home I took this picture, from which London stares at me in a slightly alien manner, with its red lips burning through the night air of Charlotte street. This made me think of cities which I could count among my friends worthy of being silent together. London is definitely one of them. Paris, unfortunately, is not. It thinks its own thoughts. With each passing year Moscow distances itself from me. I wonder what the Big Apple would be like when I go there next year.   

Do you have friends you love spending time with, in silence, thinking the same thoughts? 

Are there any cities in your life that feel like those friends?


  1. Most of my really good friends spend a lot of time alone working as artists or living in the country spending most of their time with animals. As a result we do tend to talk when we meet but always there is this feeling that we would be equally happy to share silence our mutual best friend. Fascinating painting,photos and writing.

    1. It is a great story of friendship, and thank you for sharing it! I am now trying to remember paintings that would represent this kind of atmosphere… If I remember – I’ll drop a link in the comment. There’s something nagging at me, telling me I’ve seen recently something very close to what you describe.

  2. ”I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no Melancholy.”–Charles Baudelaire. Melancholy is a wellspring for art–maybe not all the time–but it is where the depth truly is.

    1. I’m all for contemplataion, but melancholy is not my cup of double espresso: perahaps, I’ve never had an inheritance to squander, never tried any drugs, and never lived in Paris longer than for a few days 😉

    1. Thank you, and welcome to this blog ) There’s a lot to read back, actually. If you haven’t been to the About page, there are a few links to some of the most important posts on art.

  3. i’m proud to answer yes, two guys. Plus myself the 3rd one ) But i’m not attracted by the entertaining people, i guess i get enough ‘entertainment’ at work and in let’s say ‘public’ life. My friends are quite melancholic cause so am I. Thoughts don’t have to be the same but very often they are and it even scares. I like the painting, deep as always.

It would be grand to hear from you now!

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