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In the Frame for January 2012: Bryan Charnley’s ‘Indecision’

In February 1988, artist Bryan Charnley described his recent works as ‘an interior journey in which landscape, figure and object stand as symbols of intense inner conflict and other states. Drawing to some extent on dream material, I work slowly, allowing the painting to explain itself.’ His painting Indecision, (from about four years earlier), is a prime example of this style of work.

Standing on a multi-coloured floor, a blind man must decide which of two alternative doors he should pass through. To take the door on the right will be difficult, for there are steps to climb, which he can feel with his stick. To go left will be easier. The coloured flooring extends to the room beyond, perhaps indicating that with this choice, nothing will change, but the blind man has no way of knowing this. To him, both doors lead to darkness – an uncertain and perhaps frightening future. The psychedelic flooring on which he stands, contrasting with the darkness glimpsed from beyond the doors, is perhaps an allusion to the artist's expressed opinion that ‘current medical practice attempts to suppress both the patient and his symptoms’, and in particular that the medication prescribed to control his illness was stifling his creativity.

The real impact of this painting however, is not so much in its relationship to the artist’s own mental condition, but rather in its depiction of a dilemma common to us all: How can we make informed choices while facing an uncertain future?

More information on Bryan Charnley is available here.