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In the Frame for December 2011: ‘A ‘Fisk’ Out of Aqua’

One of my favourite works in the collection is A 'Fisk' Out of Aqua. We sell a postcard of it in the shop and it makes me smile every morning when I walk through the front door.

At first glance the picture seems perfectly straightforward. A 'fish out of water': someone who is ill at ease in their surroundings, floundering. But then you notice that it is not a fish but a 'Fisk'. Is this a play on somebody's name perhaps? Or a neologism?

The somewhat bedraggled fish in the picture, on closer inspection, turns out to be formed from what appear to be a bird, an eel and a grasshopper. Two faces can be made out in profile at the base of the painting, with the silhouette of giraffes (or maybe dinosaurs?) superimposed. A further bearded face can be seen at the top-left hand corner, with an arrow pointing down at it.

We know very little about the artist who created this work, beyond the fact that he or she is likely to have been a patient at the Maudsley Hospital. Another painting thought to be by the same artist, titled A Japanese Fly Blown Eppherr is signed 'Myers' and dated August 1950. But the lack of background information or clear interpretation is for me part of the appeal, and encourages me to come back to this picture again and again.