When he reached the ferry, the boat was just ready, and the same
ferryman who had once transported the young Samana across the river,
stood in the boat, Siddhartha recognised him, he had also aged very
“Would you like to ferry me over?” he asked.
The ferryman, being astonished to see such an elegant man walking along
and on foot, took him into his boat and pushed it off the bank.
“It’s a beautiful life you have chosen for yourself,” the passenger
spoke. “It must be beautiful to live by this water every day and to
cruise on it.”
With a smile, the man at the oar moved from side to side: “It is
beautiful, sir, it is as you say. But isn’t every life, isn’t every
——-Herman Hesse, From “Siddhartha”
This is is a new piece, also from the upcoming Principle Gallery show. It’s a small piece, 6″ by 18″ on canvas, that I call simply Ferryman. I have used the image of the ferryman through the years, usually in very simple, quiet compositions. It would be easy to associate the image with that of Charon, the boatman of Greek mythology who carries recently deceased souls across the river Styx in Hades. There is that feel about this image, especially with the red chair sitting empty in the boat, an image I have often associated with the dead and memory of the past.
But I see this particular ferryman in a different way, more like the philosophic ferryman of Hesse’s Siddhartha above. The passage with this ferryman is more about transformation than transportation, a spiritual crossing from existence, one state of being, to another. The brightness of the light breaking through in the sky seems more attuned to this reading of the image as well, as though the passage is taking one across to a state of higher enlightenment. There’s still a somber quality but it is different than that which is often attached to death. It’s more the feeling of knowing that you are being transformed on this voyage and the past you is no more. Gone forever.
As always, this is just how I read it. You may see more, you may see less. All views are equally valid.