Day 323: Goldfish, by Charles Wheeler
This elegant painting by Charles Wheeler from the turn of last century features in Mossgreen’s current Spring Auction Series (lot 397, est AUD $30,000-$40,000). It shows a studio model gazing with abandon into a spherical goldfish bowl. The composition, that appears to be so simple and elegant at first glance, is in fact quite complex. The whole action of the painting occurs within the left third of the canvas. The outline of the model’s head, her hand, the shape of the bowl, and even the movement of the goldfish in the bowl creates a constant elliptical movement, a vortex almost, from which the viewers are unable to extricate their gaze. It is also the vortex, from which all other elliptical shapes within the painting emanate, and we can see them echoed in the silhouette of the model’s body and the arrangement of her limbs.
Her body is, once again, confined to the upper third of the painting, leaving the central and lower-right-hand-side of the painting at the risk of appearing virtually empty and bland. And yet we do not have this sensation when looking at the picture. Wheeler is skilfully exercising the academic balance of the golden mean, where the action within the left and upper sides of the composition balance the calmness and inaction within the rest of the work, while the overall gamut – and especially the flashes of pinks and turquoises – further unite the disparate elements within the composition.
The model is so absorbed in the interplay of the goldfish that she is completely unaware of the viewer. As the result, the viewer becomes the voyeur. The subdued, dusty, pastel-like gamut of Charles Wheeler’s palette and the tight cropping of the composition further imbue the painting with the sense of intimacy and closeness.
[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries]