Tenderness and Empathy – Slow Swirl by the Edge of the Sea by Mark Rothko

Slow Swirl by the Edge of the Sea, 1944 by Mark Rothko
Slow Swirl by the Edge of the Sea, 1944 by Mark Rothko

Two creatures are coming out from the crowd, strolling away from the crowd and from what appears to be a mundane party. On the left, the man. A crown has been carved into the ground, that’s how I know it’s a man. On his right, a woman. She has a semi-circle carved underneath her feet, that’s how I know it’s a woman. They are together or at least they came as a couple.

The swirls and twirls of their silhouette is reminiscent of Art Deco. They both appear fragile and breakable. They have been traced with airiness and spontaneity with the idea of representing a human form but without any gender in mind. Their waist is narrowed just like a human’s and they are both wearing a hat. The man wears a flower necklace. They are half human, half creature. I can imagine them stuttering, moving their hips right to left and parading their outfit, slightly looking down on their neighbors.

Silhouettes of passers-by are evaporating in the back. They participate in the scene, acting as the background. The latter is also painted with a neutral beige and a brown. The main colors used are warm, coupled with touches of bright yellow and orange. Although the titles suggests the sea coming into play in this painting I didn’t see it. The earthy color tones didn’t remind me of of the water, or maybe are they facing the ocean and walking on the beach?

After seeing the painting again, I can distinguish a white ghostly figure in between the two creatures. As they are both advancing towards me, so it the triangular shape in the middle. Perhaps is it the painter’s reflection that I am seeing? It’s late and I’m letting my imagination run too wild. I don’t want to upset anyone about Rothko or push this interpretation too far.

The surrealism of this painting calls for a lot of imagination in order to “understand” and interpret the subject matter yet there’s an instant emotion that I felt at first glance. Slow Swirl by the Edge of the Sea evokes tenderness and empathy. These are good feelings to me, and they will be the ones I will remember upon laying my eyes on this master pieces and the furtive attempt to get into the painter’s heart.

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