In summer I think about Hockney. But in winter, Hopper. Every night on the short walk back from the station I pass an office block, a grey vacuum lit by the yellowish blur of artificial light. It’s a spectacle that only becomes apparent in the colder months and on days when the evenings seem to draw in before the day has begun.
I’ve been stuck on loneliness ever since I read Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City. There’s a chapter dedicated to Edward Hopper – about the way the construction of his cityscapes indicates isolation, about his subjects as uncommunicative groups of strangers and lone figures (often women) as posed to indicate despair. Whether or not loneliness was his intention, it’s certainly something that can be gleaned from his paintings. Laing is of course much more eloquent than I am in expressing this. You can read more about her personal study of loneliness in this Guardian article or better still buy the book.
The city at night is a contradiction between loneliness and frantic activity. My hometown is renowned for its nightlife – although as a veteran of failed clubbing excursions I can testify that you’ll struggle to find a good bar open past 01.30 on a weeknight. It’s a friendly corner of the world where drunk rituals like philosophising in smoking areas and doling out relationship advice in the queue for chips and gravy are very much alive.