Ever since last weekend, Husband and I have been listening on loop to a lilting and lyrical new Christmas song by Coldplay. Husband especially is a fierce believer in the brilliance of this band, and sure enough as the notes of Christmas Lights floated through the floors of our house, there was their usual ability to assimilate a haunting/ catching tune and let’s-think-about-them lyrics.
As far as I can fathom, this song is about the breaking of a relationship, and the singer’s feeling of despair in the midst of all the Christmas merriment in London. But as the song slides on, there’s a hope that heaves up at the sight of thousands of twinkling lights, which he wonders might work a miracle and magic back his love. The message of hope at the end is goose-bump-bringing:
Those Christmas Lights
Light up the street
Maybe they bring her back to me
Then all my troubles will be gone
Oh Christmas Lights keep shining on
Oh Christmas Lights
Light up the streets
Light up the fireworks in me
May all your troubles soon be gone
Those Christmas Lights keep shining on
It’s a double delight that the lyrics link to a feeling of hope in the face of adversity and anxiety, since that allows me to squeeze this bizarre and beguiling work by Sigmar Polke in before the close of the year. Hope is: Wanting to Pull Clouds (1992) is a work in polyester resin and acrylic on canvas and certainly offers up a slice of strange. There’s a man in period dress, perhaps a seafarer or seaman, with coils of rope slung around his arms, which are wrapped at their other ends around two bulbous clouds before him. And there dotted directly in the center is the real subject of the scene: a tiny sailboat floating across the patched/ color-washed waters.
Polke (born 1941) is pretty much one of the most important German painters of the post-war generation. He has a healthy irreverence for traditional painting techniques and tacks and he often introduces an anarchic element, so much so that he’s been described as a “visual revolutionary”. And while he often uses Pop Art-related images in unexpected, contradictory combinations to get the viewer to question conventional methods of art evaluation, I can’t help but think that Hope is a simpler and less cynical piece.
For me, this twinkles with the twitching thought that hope alone can convey us to a place of faith and firmness. As the man tugs the weather and directs the wind-flow (presumably to provide the ship safe passage), his hope alone is making things happen. And as the Latin inscription across the top of Coldplay stage shows (I believe that Elvis is still alive), hope is the first and formative step on the persuasive path to belief.