Black On Dark Sienna on Purple and Being Dead

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Mark Rothko,Black on Dark Sienna on Purple, 1960


"He didn't carry with him any of that burden which makes the human animal so cumbersome,the certainty that death was fast approaching and could arrive at any time, with its plunging snout, blindly to break the surface of the pool. its only those who glimpse the awful, endless corridor of death, too gross to contemplate, that need to lose themselves in love and art" - Jim Crace, Being Dead.

Joseph and Celice’s corpses lie on the beach, decomposing and becoming part of nature once more. Their battered, blood-covered bodies decompose while sandhoppers surround them, reclaiming their bodies. The text tells their story, the story of the two lovers' bodies as time captures them washing away slowly. The two bodies lie there frozen, the heat of their blood gone, the movement run out, their vision gone black, their minds left blank. Jim Crace brutally throws their harsh and painful deaths at the reader, all too similarly to Rothko. The struggle between their lives and their deaths ends in this text, the slithering black consuming everything once more. As the beauty of the world fades, the red of life and passion fades away, leaving nothing behind but two carcasses. 
 
Mark Rothko depicts this everlasting tension between life and death in his piece Black On Dark Sienna on Purple. The red and black battle with each other, uneven lines bleeding into the other in final attempts to beat the other. Eventually, the black overwhelms the red, eating away the color just as death inevitably does to life. In this piece especially, the color disparity is violent and desperate. The black void consumes the flesh of the red. Both float in an open space, the depth not understood unless stared into without distraction, a disrupted pool of color. Rothko’s pieces have a way of washing over the viewer. This piece especially does that to me. The colors are dark, their struggle is unsettling. I know which color will win in the end. Rothko’s own fear of death is evident in every stroke of this painful piece. I now feel it, too.

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