Posted at 11.13.2018
Ashbery's 'The Painter' is a interested poem, with many different tiers of signifying to unwrap and unravel, and one that can't simply be read without nearing these degrees of comprehension - almost too abstract to understand on any one coating. Even having analyzed it in depth I still feel like I've scarcely scratched the top of this poem, and I have a tendency to think that this is an completely deliberate act on the author's part - using form, style and words to permit multiple interpretations of the poem - a touch upon nature and mankind, a comment on the creation of fine art or a touch upon the idolisation of performers.
This poem is a narrative at first reading - the simply written report of a painter. Reading deeper maybe it's perceived to be a satirical touch upon the concept of 'art' and the process of its creation - 'he expected his subject matter to plaster its own portrait on the canvas', or on the idea of an artist - in dialling the protagonist, who created skill, a 'painter', whilst referencing within 'designers leaning from the structures' yet with no indication these artists produced any kind of art. Finally, the nautical language, 'wrecks' and 'painter' (the rope used to add a dispatch to the docks or land) may lead to an interpretation of the poem being a comment on nature reclaiming land that mankind 'stole'.
The poem is undramatised but means an omniscient third person narrator who calls for no part in the action, but demonstrates onto it within. The tone of this narrator is intellectual and neutral, with no sign that the narrator cares for the topic. This narrator does however have the ability to comment on the thoughts and emotions of the painter, 'he appreciated he expected' indicating that the narrator is the tone of voice of the author, as opposed to also being a identity within the poem. It might also be argued that the narrator symbolises God - the omniscience and the referrals to prayer within the poem lend to this interpretation. 'Just as children envision a prayer is only silence' indicates that the writer believes prayer cannot be merely silence, and hence the narrator could be symbolising God, reading the painting as a prayer.
The formal composition of the poem is six. 5 stanzas. The six stanzas narrate his record, almost in the style of speech, using a lot of enjambment, and organised sentences to generate the narrative atmosphere of the poem. The ultimate one half stanza is one sentence long, and ends all of a sudden, 'as though his subject had made a decision to continue to be a prayer'. The closing of the stanza is significant because the loss of life of 'him' is narrated in the first type of the previous stanza, 'they tossed him, the portrait, from the tallest of the complexes'. The audience is left to decide whether 'him' refers to the painter, or to the portrait - could it be personalisation of his work, or could it be the loss of life of the designer pre-empting the natural loss of art to mother nature. The penultimate line mentions the increased loss of his equipment, 'the sea devoured the canvas and the brush', therefore seeming to put these above the loss of life of the painter or family portrait in importance. The past line focuses back about nature, and the theory that the work would be kept incomplete, much as the stanza was.
On one of its levels, the poem is approximately a painter battling to paint nature, whilst succeeding in painting (wo)man, 'he decided his wife for a new subject'. The immediate issue visible in this is the notion of man looking to exert control over nature and failing, and this is held up by the climax, where nature eventually wins. The level on which maybe it's read as a satire on the action of artwork, and role of an designer is the wordplay around 'painter' and 'artist' and the painter being the only one to produce fine art within the poem. These themes and levels tie up together however to suggest that the central of the poem is a touch upon the role of skill - can artwork accurately reflect mother nature? Is it a task limited to the elite or can anyone participates in its creation? Can humans coloring 'true' art work or only a real human image of what art might be?
In terms of your energy and place the poem is apparently set somewhere relatively modern - the dialect used is area of the typical vernacular in Britain, and until the previous stanza the vocabulary is used to create a relatively realistic circumstance where we don't need to suspend disbelief, and even then 'they tossed him, the portrait, from the best of the buildings' is not a statement that may be viewed as 'fantastic', only as improbable in the current culture.
As significantly as I can tell, my public and ethnical distance from the poem isn't that great, so I is going to be reading it quite carefully to how the author had written it - there is nothing to indicate that the painter deviates from social norms or male stereotypes, except perhaps his submissive characteristics, in having been 'put to work' by the other people in the building. I would say however that I have a distance from the poet, who is an older man, and this a few of the themes within the poem might mature with age.
The world view and ideology of the poem appears to be that characteristics is the pinnacle of fine art, and anything a human creates is supplementary compared to that. It highlights the value and value of the knowledge of an painter, but passes satirical comment on the thought of an 'artist' - the musicians and artists in this poem are never seen even to create. In that way it denigrates artists, saying that characteristics is a higher form of art work, and that maybe it's hubris to claim the id of designer for oneself.
To some extent, the poem evokes a feeling of serenity - whilst in places this content is getting close to violent, the form is quite gentle, so when a narrative poem the audience has some psychological distance from the storyline. In addition, it leaves the reader with a sense of questioning the true interpretation of the poem - the facts asking about the type of artwork?
Written in an exceedingly simple style, very little imagery is immediately noticeable - in addition to the assessment of his partner to ruined structures, a short simile. This is nonetheless quite effective, almost summarising the overarching theme of the poem in one line, where the phrase 'ruined properties' implies a taking backside of buildings by nature, similar to the images the thing is of trees bursting out of long discontinued houses. It could also be argued that the sea is a metaphor for the concept of nature all together - and the reclamation of humankind and skill by the ocean as associated with nature reclaiming the earth. The poem is typically quite immediate however, and even these simile is simple, but the turmoil of the painter and the sea is central to the meaning, the fact that whilst he is able to coloring a 'vast' family portrait of his wife, he is completely unable to paint dynamics, at least with any integrity.
It might be that it is impossible to answer that with regards to such a complex poem. It certainly uses composition, form and style effectively to make a questioning atmosphere within itself, where the poem is very open to interpretation on the assignments and discussion of human, artwork and characteristics, by the audience.