For a Hundred Years

A performance of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata K21 by Duanduan Hao

For a Hundred Years is based on the final section of Sonata K21. One thing you may notice about this painting straightaway is that all of the sections dividing the painting are the same length. This feature is due to the perfectly even divisions in the measures of the score. The colors of this Sonata have been accentuated in a way that they preserve the harmonic pattern and rhythm but layer over that the colors of painting of a garden by Pierre Bonnard.

This landscape became very important to me when I noticed that the proportions were way off – the roses in the middle section are huge compared to the foreground and the background is extremely distant. It reminded me of a line in the epic poem The Wanderings of Oisin, by W. B. Yeats, which I have been working with for an upcoming show.

We danced to where in the winding thicket
The damask roses, bloom on bloom,
Like crimson meteors hang in the gloom.

And bending over them softly said,
Bending over them in the dance,
With a swift and friendly glance
From dewy eyes: ‘Upon the dead
Fall the leaves of other roses,
On the dead dim earth encloses:
But never, never on our graves,
Heaped beside the glimmering waves,
Shall fall the leaves of damask roses.
– W.B. Yeats

This line prioritized the roses in a way that that the painting does. They have larger-than-life significance, standing out from the golden light of the rest of the painting. And they will never fall. You will see other text from the poem in this painting. In fact, the title For a Hundred Years references a statement made by Oisin, King of the Red Branch Kings, to St. Patrick, who tries very hard to be his confessor. A Hundred Years refers to the length of time Oisin spends with his wife, Niamh, in the undying lands in the first book of the poem.