Sisyphus at rest and other pictures

Niemeyer's Volcano in Le Havre

These are 3 miniature watercolours [10cmx10cm] which I have just finished painting.

La roseraie Blésoise (Blois)

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyers Volcano in the Normandy city of Le Havre (left) to start with;

Secondly, the Rose Garden in Blois, in the Loire Valley (right);

And lastly, more surreal and metaphorical, Sisyphus at rest (below).

For the benefit of those who don’t know about the myth, Sisyphus is Aelous‘s son. He proved shrewed enough so that he was able to thwart death itself, which he managed to shackle so that he wouldn’t be sent to Hell. As a consequence he was punished for eternity, a punishment known as Sisyphean Challenge, whereby “Zeus displayed his own cleverness by binding Sisyphus to an eternity of frustration. Accordingly, pointless or interminable activities are often described as Sisyphean. Sisyphus was a common subject for ancient writers and was depicted by the painter Polygnotus on the walls of the Lesche at Delphi (Pausanias x. 31)“.

Sisyphe au repos (Mythe Grec)

But the The Myth of Sisyphus is also the title of Albert Camus‘s first , and famous, philosophical essay, an essential piece of literature in which the author is depicting his cynical, yet optimistic, view of the world that surrounds us. In this essay, Camus postulates that the world is absurd, and that all human activity on the surface of this earth is no less absurd. He therefore likens the human condition to that of poor Sisyphus, who was forced to push or carry a heavy boulder uphill on an interminable slope. Yet, according to Camus, life is good despite all this, and it is deemed worth living. This is what I imagined in this picture. Sisyphus, a man of today but also of all time, is rolling his boulder upwards as if nothing happened. But in this picture he is also taking his time to breathe before his task is finished. As it will never be finished, the picture shows a scene which is in theory impossible, but as the world is absurd anyway, it doesn’t matter that much. Sisyphus understands that this task is useless, that it will take him nowhere and he decides to have a short break before resuming.

“the fight for any summit, is in itself sufficient for a man to feel contented. One has to imagine that Sisyphus could be a happy man.” (Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus)

A philosophy I can relate to, disillusioned but certainly not in the least pessimistic.

Yann Gourvennec
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