It has always been there, always been part of my love of Lowry, but only now has it become clear. Our context summons it, gives it voice.
The world that is being made over into a mire, a midden, clogged with the filth unleashed by capital’s emancipation of sunlight captured long ago, its unleashing of carbon compressed and incarcerated far beneath the surface.
(In passing, I love the tiny splash of red, the bus coming down the hill; I also love the outrage of several Salford councillors when the city spent 54 guineas on the first of the seascapes below because there was nothing in the picture, not even a boat.)
But Lowry, for all his matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs, also painted the world without us. A world desired, a world restored, in which we are a memory at most – a mark on the land, a residual trace of that which has passed, as in this impish female nude called ‘The Landmark’.
Such towers outlast us, move off into abstraction as we recede from being.
And beneath them, sometimes, there is the sea.
Lowry often spoke of the sea in relation to loneliness, but his seascapes move beyond that particular personal psychological sensibility. They are images of the world in which human categories, our separations of it all into distinct things, no longer hold.
Our spectrality, our deathliness, always there in the portraits and figures, attenuates, fades, disperses.
The tide rises.
We are gone.