LET’S ENJOY THE STILLNESS

Another reason why Hopper is a celebrated artist is that his work embodies tranquillity, quiet and stillness. A known depressive for most of his life, his works speak to the inner-worlds of many people who might be struggling with mental health issues, a particularly pertinent issue during this crisis.

A close friend of Hopper, illustrated Walter Tittle, once remarked that he was “suffering…from long periods of unconquerable inertia, sitting for days at a time before his easel in helpless unhappiness, unable to raise a hand to break the spell.” Another friend, the fellow painter, Guy Pène du Bois commented: “I’d like to see him out of his present condition. I’d like to see him happy.”

A reflection of his inner world, Hopper’s works are so unsettling at times that they create a sense of trepidation and suspense. For that reason, he inspired countless film directors and photographers, from Alfred Hitchcock to William Eggleston and David Lynch.

But on the question of stillness, we should count our blessings for a moment.

While living in an age very recently defined by ‘burn out’ culture, which the WHO claimed last year would create a “global pandemic”, we have ironically been forced to calm the fuck down and sit still for a minute by some very aggressive and insidious microbes.

Coincidentally, our period of history is beginning to echo the turbulent time that Hopper lived through: the 1918 Spanish flu, the electric energy of 1920s culture, and the sharp economic decline brought on by the Great Depression of the 1930s, as well as two World Wars.

Hopper lived in a frightening and uncertain world, one which compelled him to paint isolated figures in settings of calm disquiet.

Whereas a month ago, we were arguing for “minimalism” over materialism, and “slow fashion” over fast fashion, now we are restlessly awaiting the moment we can return to our fast-paced unsustainable, capitalist consumer-driven lives – the ones that had originally been contributing towards global warming and triggering a mental health crisis.

If Hopper can teach us anything, it is this: although we feel useless sitting at home, unable to control the external pandemonium around us, for now, the best we can do is stay away from others, remember to wash our hands (goddamit), and find ease in our own interior worlds.