In the Hold

This famous piece by David Bomberg really is good. First of all, the subject, namely a ship, is pretty interesting, and more so when we remember how Klee would have done it—with sails on the horizon, a real cliché. Bomberg’s is a cargo ship, so the sailors, who must be there somewhere, are interesting as well. And the view is down into the hold, or abyss if you will.

David Bomberg, In the Hold c.1913-4

David Bomberg, In the Hold c.1913-4

The picture is a grid with diagonals, with selective infilling of colour, so it seems a premonition of Bridget Riley. The thing emerges from a simple basic structure, and that’s always admirable, but Bomberg also adds indications of objects, almost all based on other diagonals. It’s a puzzle, and not easy to read. Next time I’m at the Tate, I hope it’s available, because I suspect that an extended look is necessary to decipher the image. There is what looks like a kind of stanchion and railing in the bottom left corner, and that really makes the space come into view, but the middle area, where the light is strongest, is very complex and obscure. It reminds me of Picabia’s great series of pictures of women at a spring, discussed earlier on this blog. There are some legible supports or pillars angling into the image, but the centre puzzles me.

I wish I could say something definitive, but all I know for sure is that some forms look like they are in front of or behind others, so there is space in the picture. But the action or event depicted eludes me. For now.

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