Alex Colville (1920 – 2013)

Kweiseye was a mostly weekly art blog written by myself (Tom Kwei) from June 2014 – October 2015. Initially conceived as but a challenge to keep myself writing regularly, art criticism soon became something I just really enjoyed doing. In total I covered more than 60 artists from over 20 countries and multiple genres – for a full list of all the artists analysed so far, click HERE.

I still love art and will definitely write more Kweiseye in the future, it’s just at the moment I’m more involved with another passion of mine, podcasting. Check out my ‘Down in the Hole’ podcast if you’re a fan of the great Tom Waits’ music, I also interview the great writers of battle rap longform on my ‘Battle Rap Resume’ podcast. here.

Thanks for all your kind comments and messages on the blog so far. Please get in touch via the blog or I’d love to hear about what you think on the pieces featured. 

Tom Kwei, February 2016 


I suppose I approach this primitive form of art criticism through a poetic view. I enjoy symbols and getting grubby hands as I attempt to unearth meaning. And whilst there isn’t any rhyme scheme here to laboriously unpack, this painting does contain an irresistible sense of rhythm.

‘Horse and Train’ – 1954


The galloping train curves like a backwards smile into the distance. Its crushing speed made fantastically apparent by the subtle division on the horizon; a small bump between the pulled carriages and the lower grasslands. What once was a simple line it seems, can evolve painfully quick to the onrush and light of a hurtling machine.

To some extent when I look at this piece, I feel ensnared like the horse. The steel of the tracks, brighter than any of the world around them, pull out of the canvas, both backwards to another world, and forwards into ours. Through the charging animal however, Colville draws our eyes downward to its fractious mid hurtle position. Beneath the horse, there is an uneasy quietness before the potential collision. The gravel is painted delicately to the pebble, with the thick pregnant marshland belied by delicate brushstrokes beside the tracks.

Yet amid his subdued palate, Colville draws the two majestic roamers of the landscape in equivocation rather than opposition. The smoke of the train itself too blends into the clouds above, with the horse’s hoof merging to the dark churn of the tracks below.

Rather than the obvious symbolic implication of the painting then, Colville offers a more interesting interpretation upon the idea of choice. Both the train driver and the horse have the ability it seems to get out of the way in some form, but both, for this snapshot moment at least, seem unwilling.



The lid of the piano scores across the female ‘Chanteuse’ singer as an eye patch. Yet viewed more objectively in the disembodied mirror that floats behind the female’s head, we see that all is normal. The instrument splays  wide across the three windows, with the keys eerily fragmented between frame and elbow.

At first I had crudely assumed, both due to the prevalence of skin and the moan, that this was a primarily sexual image. Whilst undoubtedly the connotations are there, I feel Colville presents an even higher, more interesting, level of seclusion – an engagement with art.

Granted, such exultations are displayed are often part and parcel of public artistic exhibitions, but the slightly abstract way in which the singer is shown, suggests an unrehearsed, honest response to the music in front of her. Crucially too, there is no sheet music, she is merely playing, singing. Everything else around is drawn in unwavering precision, whilst amid it all her mouth gapes slightly, open to music we can only imagine.

Enjoy reading that? Click HERE to see a list of all the art analyses on Kweiseye to date.

To keep up with the blog and all the art I write about, follow me right here on this blog or here @tomkweipoet


2 thoughts on “Alex Colville (1920 – 2013)

  1. Pingback: Donna Norine Schuster (1883 – 1953) | Kwei's Eye

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