Many Hands – Portrait of a College
A long unvarnished thumbnail arrests the gaze in the central work of Moor’s collective art-piece. Inviting speculation, the hands betray no identity, no ring, and no discernible marking. The fingers are lightly gnarled; the thick index finger of the right hand is worn, weighing down on the middle finger of the resting left hand. With skin creasing across the joints and tight curls of hair on the arm closer inspection suggests that these hands belong to a man rather than a woman, but there is no indication whose they are, or that person’s status in the college. Have these hands spent their life thumbing though books and archives, or have they been tilling the soil in the college gardens? What picture do they give of the person behind, their character and connection to the college?
Each image evokes these sets of questions. Unnerving in their minimalist palette and provokingly sketch-like contrast of painted surface and pencil line, the images each tell a moving story of commitment, fellowship and community; a timeless story of public work and private commitments that contrasts young enthusiasm with mature reflection. Here and there a ring, a piece of sketched fabric or shape hints at the sex or status of the sitter, but other hands appear to hang in space detached from sitter with a life of their own. A mélange of pragmatism, enthusiasm, elegance, thoughtfulness and poise are reflected in the character of these images that both capture Somerville’s history of commitment to women’s education and integrate the masculine presences of its current and future community. Moor’s simplicity of tone and unifying use of plain white background brings these different personalities together into a cohesive portrait of a multi-faceted space. Together they are a celebration of the open-minded democratic nature of the institution, and a moving tribute to the sense of fellowship and community at Somerville College.
Dr Fiona Gatty