after Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples
– Joseph Wright of Derby, oil on canvas, c. 1776
Yet something can be two things at once:
fire and granite, moon and water, vision
and pigment; oil and soul. Sulphur seas
roil beneath our feet, a cloud’s mutability
is glued on jute; merry walks perforce
with melancholy. So I make these perilous
studies of the light the more to know
the quality of dark, its gravity, its allure.
Everything I paint is Nature, all is artifice,
the artist’s trance is of the real. Night
and the volcano engineered this earth: man
and monster, we stand across their work.