Edvard Munch was one of Modernism’s most significant artists. He was active throughout more than sixty years; from the time he made his debut in the 1880s, right up to his death in 1944. Munch was part of the Symbolist movement in the 1890s, and a pioneer of expressionist art from the beginning of the 1900s onward. His tenacious experimentation within painting, graphic art, drawing, sculpture, photo and film has given him a unique position in Norwegian as well as international art history.
As I sit at a shady table in the beautiful gardens with pen and paper at the ready I am looking for inspiration. The well seems to have dried up so in order to reinvigorate my mushy brain I resolve that a change of scenery may be the answer.
The gardens are alive in Spring, giving us their final flush of color before the onslaught of the long hot summers. The caretakers have done a wonderful job through the autumn and winter primping, pruning and plumping up their offerings. They have designed various new garden rooms. These are a new addition to the old garden structure but they certainly work in this environment. Under a huge Oak tree there are three brightly colored deck chairs and two doggy beanbags! They look as though they belong to someone but they are actually a gift from the caretakers to the day to day occupants of the gardens – how lovely. Having only been in the area for a short time I marvel at the fact they are still in place after two weeks as I know that would not be so in the big smoke. They would have been acquired for some private garden within the first twenty four hours but this is the country and I am reminded things are different.
As I sit staring at my writing implements strategically placed within arms reach on the table I know my arms do not seem to be taking the hint to participate in this exercise. As I look around, I am aware of a man sitting on a bench not far from me who seems to be constantly staring in my direction. So, I force my arms to take up the writing implements hoping to divert his gaze and pretend I am not vaguely interested. I commence writing – who knows what – and hope that this will allay my fears. After some time, as my pen continues to ramble over the paper, I aware of a movement out of the corner of my eye and look up under my sunglasses to see the man walking towards me. I am spooked – perhaps I am overthinking this situation. Continuing to write, head bowed, suddenly I hear a rasping cough. I look up into a very intense face gazing down at me. I am uncomfortable being in a seated position with him standing over me. Not close enough to be in my space but close enough for me to be uptight.
I shuffle my feet, wriggle in my seat, nervously rub my eye and am aware that my mouth has become quite dry. Trying to reassure myself this is a huge over reaction I decide in the moment to change my tactic and instigate fight mode. Brazenly looking into his eyes whilst gathering my strength and at the same time licking my lips to irrigate my mouth I look straight into his eyes and state what a lovely day it is to be in the park.
He does not seem alarmed at all and by the casual look on his face I can tell this is not going to be a brief conversation. He is of medium height with angular features, piercing brown eyes and freckled, pale skin. His tweed peaked cap sits jauntily to the right and his hands are not the hands of a manual laborer. He is not dressed in the normal attire of locals. He is different and interesting Having completed my initial body scan I know I have enough information to provide the police with a clear description of my assailant if required. I raise my right eyebrow as a cue for him to speak next. In an accent that I cannot recognize he crisply introduces himself as Edward Munch the artist who finds himself in the park to find inspiration.
How funny, we are both there for the same reason! Whilst this introduction means little to me he is obviously aware of his own importance. As he sits at the table opposite me I begin to feel a little more relaxed in his presence until his next statement. He has found his inspiration and asks if he can do a sketch of my anxiety posing for me as it will help him and maybe enable me to release some of my tension and allow my pen to skip over the paper. Without any more discussion, I find myself in the park, being sketched by a stranger as my pen races across the parchment paper. We sit in silence while he completes what may be his next masterpiece.