Tongued With Fire


Matthew Greenburgh: Tongued with Fire

Cut leaf staghorn sumach - Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’

200x115cm - edition of 4 plus artist's proof
100x58cm - edition of 5

“And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.”

from Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot, 1942

My goal is to convey visually (ie “beyond language”) a similar feeling to that produced by Eliot’s musings on death and beauty.

Autumn leaves are used explicitly in a number of poems in the context of death and I hope that this and some of my other pictures can act as visual metaphors for these poetic images:

"Every October it becomes important, no, necessary
to see the leaves turning, to be surrounded
by leaves turning; it’s not just the symbolism,
to confront in the death of the year your death,
one blazing farewell appearance, though the irony
isn’t lost on you that nature is most seductive
when it’s about to die, flaunting the dazzle of its
incipient exit, [...]”

from Leaves, Lloyd Schwartz, 1941 and this:

"My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:
Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colours will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone."

from Japanese Maple, Clive James, 2014

Next Leaf

Copyright Matthew Greenburgh © 2015. All Rights Reserved.