There was one image that my father always ejected out of his mind and onto paper: a small boat on the edge of the sea. I cannot remember whether it was functional, abandoned, shattered, a ruin or waiting for someone desperate to embark on a journey. This image in shaded black tones wrestling with the white surface was everywhere, this repetitive standstill of an object, immoveable and yet a symbol of travel and independence.
Despite the fact that the boat seems empty when I revisit it in my memory, it was loaded with my father’s nostalgia, troubles, homesickness, fears, self-isolation, sorrow and sense of belonging and detachment, on the verge of escaping, being stuck between lingering and leaving behind. My father’s body is not visible in this drawing, and yet I can sense his hunted footsteps, his indecisiveness which is mine, his eagerness to get away. The boat represents my father, a seemingly solid construction, sturdy wood, but a material that has deteriorated in the nagging saltwater, the possessive algae, the overheated sand and the dead stones. A boat that cannot make up its mind, wrestling with two opposite worlds and identities, women and children, lovers and truths, lives and deaths.
It is constantly moved by outer circumstances and beings, pretending to feel safe in the twilight of elements. In retrospect, this drawing makes much more sense to me. Reading my father’s unknown inner and outer life, gives the recurrent drawing the meaning it always had. Was it a memory? A place where something important happened? A fantasy? Life unlived? A conclusion? Or a step forward?
“Boy with Toy Soldiers” by Antonio Mancini (1852-1930)