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Picturing a World

Walter Gay interiors (4): Creative misprision

"Creative misprision" is a concept in literary criticism. Briefly put, an artist or a writer misinterprets someone else's work and takes off from there in a new direction. When I first saw this pastel drawing by Walter Gay, I thought the window looked out onto the brick wall of the next building. I saw the room as empty, dusty, and formerly grand but now hemmed in and down-at-heels. Maybe it could be the setting for a young protagonist who is thrilled to find a romantic apartment which is cheap because of the blocked view. Maybe it could illustrate a melancholy last view by someone moving out. The fact that the image is non-narrative in itself makes it more potent in a way for stimulating imagination.

The title in French is Intérieur aux stores vénetiens, which threw me a minute. Stores? Venetian stores, stores in Venice …? Then I checked on the translation: Venetian blinds. Okay, so the room might ordinarily be sunlit. Maybe the character walks into a somewhat dingy room, opens the blinds and finds brilliant sunlight, a fabulous view over a cityscape or garden. That's probably a rug on the floor, but it could be transformed into bare planks or tiles for a writer's purposes. The cupboards might open onto all kinds of things, or maybe not. The fact that they are closed contributes to a mood of reclusiveness or to potentiality. The dustiness I saw may be suggested more by the medium than by Gay's intent, but that doesn't matter for stimulating a story. Eventually I noticed that there is furniture in the room, but somehow I can't let go of my first impression of emptiness.
In short, there are times when understanding the original creator's intent is important, and others when you should just let your own imagination run free. If anybody sees a story in this picture, start writing!

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