This is not an Orange

Shortlisted for the 2022 Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition on the theme of Climate

It started with the first edition of La petite anthologie de la poesie francaise—a small pocket book of French poems classified by theme—Love, Desire, Passion, Humour, Melancholy, Heroism, Animals, Fantasy among others, featuring poets such as Verlaine, Rimbaud, Eluard, Corneille, La Fontaine, Racine.

Easy to disappear in its pages and forget the world as we experience it with crisis after crisis—deadly viruses, climate change, hunger, abuse, deforestation, wars, bitcoins…  Poetry is soothing, elevating, affirming. Poets are not shy in using words that give human emotions the right to exist.

Up until page 153 where it’s all about colours. Colours’ right to exist.

La terre est bleue comme une orange / The Earth is blue like an orange, writes Paul Eluard in “Premierement”. Sounded like the daily dose of provocation.

Jamais une erreur les mots ne mentent pas / Never a mistake, words do not lie

If words do not lie, did the poet mean the first line as a literal truth? We all heard about the Blue Planet.  But what does it mean “blue as an orange”?

It turns out the poem is not about  Planet Earth but intended to “declare war on the human need to create patterns, to fill in gaps, to tie meaning to experience and to reject chaos and randomness”.

It was compared to Rene Magritte’s painting “ Ceci n’est pas une pipe/This is not a pipe” – a masterpiece of surrealism where the artist challenges conventions of language and visual representation.

I deeply enjoyed this kind of provocation but had my own topic that was looking to be voiced.

I happened to have a canvas, some paints and a few brushes within reach and what came to light could be a mix of Paul Vallery’s colours and Magritte’s poetry. Or the other way around.

It’s called “This is not an Orange” and is a surreal representation of humanity pushing the limits of climate change. An invitation to pause and see the big picture—the scorching reality of what the future could hold.

“We don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” said Bob Dylan in “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” his song released in 1965. It became the prompt for the 2022 Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition in London on the theme of CLIMATE.

This is not an Orange was shortlisted. I couldn’t keep it to myself.