‘Those who have eyes,’ writes Georges Braque, my favourite cubist painter, ‘know just how irrelevant words are to what they see.’ Does this mean that I don’t have the eyes to see? Perhaps it does. But it also shows my propensity to take refuge in words. I can’t draw or paint. It’s only words that I can rely on. If I turn to them, this is because when my eyes look at a painting, words help me discover more about myself.
In Incantations, Subhash Jaireth responds through a series of short prose pieces to portraits of famous and everyday Australians in an attempt to rethink the role of place, identity and the self. It is an ekphrastic exercise, in that it reinterprets an artwork in writing, but it is also a lyrical exploration of what art can mean: its power to move, to know, and to feel.