Boxes of Delight

by Chantal

photo - chantal powell

photo - chantal powell

You walk into an old drawing room, footsteps echoing on the aged oak floorboards. Heavy velvet curtains cover the large windows on either end of the room, motes of dust dancing through the shafts of light between the partings. The room is empty save a low wooden table in the centre of the floor. Upon this table is a small ornate box. It sits on tiny clawed feet, the metal of the box tarnished with age now showing rich flecks of green and red between its beautifully worn design. Lying next to the box is the key to open it.

So do you? Even if you are disciplined enough not to, surely you can’t deny the desire that would be present in that situation? Imagine feeling the cool metal of the key in your hand, the sound of the lock turning and the box creaking open to reveal what lies within.

Psyche opens the golden box- John Williiam Waterhouse 1903

Psyche opens the golden box- John Williiam Waterhouse 1903

The lure of hidden secrets, the arousal of curiosity and desire for discovery. This is the wonder of clandestine boxes. A pull that throughout stories and history people (women in particular it appears!) seem unable to resist. Pandora and Psyche being two obvious examples! When I was dating the man who is now my husband I let myself into his flat one day while he was out to prepare a Valentines day surprise for him. On his bedside table sat a tiny oval box covered in deep green velvet. Everything about the box said there was a beautiful engagement ring sitting inside. I will leave it to you to determine how strong my willpower was that day!

It does seem a particularly feminine appeal to me – I think because I associate women with treasuring precious keepsakes and secrets. A woman’s trinket or jewelry box holding items that are cherished and steeped with associations of love and passion. Value is bestowed on objects simply by the act of them being kept in this shrine like place.

When entering someone else’s box, the details of the secrets or treasures within remain a mystery but the gesture of uncovering and discovery has a  wonderful meaning of its own. Its for that reason that I am keen to incorporate boxes into my artwork. The idea that the viewer participates and is excitied by the experience, that they make a choice to open the box, become the voyeur and go on a journey.