Odilon Redon (1911)

“I have placed a little door opening on to the mysterious” said Redon. This portrait, with its tender colour and its entreaty to quieten – and seen through an opening to another realm – has the disarming impact of silence itself. The face is the Greek god Harpocrates who with his fingers asks us – or himself – to withhold: secrets, energy, even our own selves. His posture turns inwards, and his other hand is cupped over the ear: don’t forget to listen – we have one mouth, but two ears. The face is mysterious: eyes cast down to shun eye contact, and painted as if behind a veil. It’s a beautiful paradox to create a visual hymn to listening, especially when silence seems something like an endangered species. We fill our lives with noise – “a tale…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” – but silence awaits all of us. This picture, all soft power, is a dramatisation of the will and need to listen more deeply, to exclude superfluity, and embrace the essence of our internal topography. The deepest mysteries can’t be spoken – that whereof we do not know, thereof we must remain silent.