The Power of Art to Transform Awareness
Consider the painting shown here, titled Hotel Bedroom, made by the British artist Lucian Freud in 1954.
A woman lies in bed with her hand touching her face, her large eyes gazing upwards to somewhere we cannot see. It is an expression that is hard to place, perhaps pensive, internally perturbed in some way.
Next to the bed stands a man. His hands are bunched up in his pockets. He looks out to the viewer with an equally estranged look — although we sense his concerns are different to hers. Something has come between them, an impasse. A moment of memory or regret has sprung up or maybe there has come a time to pause.
We don’t know exactly what’s happened, and that’s the aspect of this painting that I want to draw your attention to: its deliberate ambiguity.
There is restlessness in the air. The artist has brilliantly juxtaposed the private space of the couple’s bed with the large window that suggests a city street. The open shutters opposite hint at the world outside the small hotel bedroom, also insinuating how the protagonists of the painting are partially absent, partially outside too.
Have you ever paused like this and felt a deep sense of comprehension that is difficult to express in words? It’s a moment of heightened perception, tinged with a touch of melancholy, where a new idea takes root and a gentle spark of insight illuminates a fresh intention.
Now I want to ask: Who is the main subject of the work? Is it her or him? What is the point being made here? Whose side are we supposed to take, if any?
The fact that there are no straightforward answers to these questions is part of the work’s eloquence. We are given an intimate view into a relationship, painted in a precise linear style and with a sense of lucidity. Yet through suggestiveness and a certain…