For December 2010, the Friends Secretary has decided to highlight Marion Patrick’s Sad Child With Yellow Clothing. Personally, I find Patrick’s paintings particularly expressive; many visitors, children and adults, can probably identify with the extreme emotions represented here. The muted colours of the isolated children – even in this, one of the most colourful of her works in our collection, the child’s face is tinged with grey – provide an overwhelming sense of desolation, reminiscent of inner city desolation or the ruined landscapes of war (for the environment is most certainly represented as man-made, rather than natural). Yet the grey backgrounds are also evocative of the school playground, a location in which almost all of us, at some point, can remember a sense of loneliness and loss which, for perhaps just one brief moment in time, seemed to colour the entire world.
What I find especially significant in these paintings, however – and why I’ve chosen this one in particular, with its unusual splash of bright colour – is that the isolation is never entirely complete; the viewer him or herself provides an inkling of hope. For, almost always, the child (or at least one in a group of children) is staring directly out of the painting, catching the eye of the observer. Here, one eye is hidden behind the child’s hair, suggesting caution, a fear of exposure. The other eye, however, is wide and clear, almost appealing. Although, as Patrick herself suggested, the isolation of the individual might be inevitable in life, while somebody is looking at the painting the child will never be truly alone.