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This article is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.

Cover Story

Stephen Chambers, ‘State of the Nation 1’
Rod Mengham
THE IMAGE ON THE COVER by Stephen Chambers comes from one of three large and mysteriously dramatic landscape paintings that go under the collective title ‘State of the Nation’. What these depict is a state of crisis, showing three versions of a pony express rider in the process of being pitched from his saddle, hat and mailbag flying.  His path is strewn with sticks, obviously cut to length but not finished off, and so halfway between a state of natural growth and something fit for purpose, although what purpose is not clear. In two of the paintings, sticks are also seen in the messenger’s grasp, like olive branches divested of their leaves, while the stick in the third painting has slipped from his hand and is flying through the air.  In all three paintings, the urgency of the message is proportionate to the risk of its not being delivered.  And a message of sorts is also expressed by the speech bubble that issues from the rider’s lips.  This speech is wordless, taking the form of a rainbow of different colours, suggesting that the state of the nation should relate to its being diverse in meaning, identity and purpose: a ‘rainbow nation’.

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