I’ve always been fascinated by the circus, and this painting captures so much of it: the danger wrapped in smiles, the making acrobatics and animals all-of-a-piece despite how incongruous that would seem outside of the tent, the atmospheric gloom punctuated by light. The bouquet of flowers descends at the same trajectory as the trapeze swinger, so we see that in the circus the act *is* the reaction. And the woman enters into our view by breaking a frame – the rectangle of rope and bar – to be present with us, rather than screened safely away. The circus is spectacle, but it carries a magic that, when we are receptive to it, can be carried with us.
Chagall says ‘For me a circus is a magic show that appears and disappears like a world.’ This makes me think of the great magician Magnus Eisengrim in the Deptford Trilogy, raised in a travelling ‘World of Wonders’:
‘It’s just the way things strike me, after the life I’ve lived, which looks pretty much like a World of Wonders when I spread it out before me, as I’ve been doing, Everything has its astonishing, wondrous aspect, if you bring a mind to it that’s really your own – a mind that hasn’t been smeared and blurred with half-understood muck from schools, or the daily papers, or any other ragbag of reach-me-down- notions’.