Tomorrow is Never

Kay Sage (1955)

This was the first painting Sage made following the sudden death of her partner, and seems weighed down by an atmosphere of overwhelmingly cold, oppressive grief. Surrealists were fascinated by the world of dreams but theres no respite here from a waking nightmare of loss. Four scaffold towers, incomplete and ungrounded, enclose enigmatically entwined cloth figures, with no prospect of release, reminding us that what we construct also constricts us. The mist rolls in with the dull fug of bereavement, and the colouring – uncompromisingly unmusical, grey, benumbed – offers no comfort. The title, too, reflects a rule of heartbreak, when a sense of time, past and future, melts away, so acutely does she seem to feel the inescapable agony of the present. This was one of Sages last large-scale paintings before she put a fatal bullet through her heart in 1963.