The Oil Paintings Behind Employment Law
Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) was a romantic painter born in the Aragon region of North-East Spain. Despite a long career producing many portraits for Royalty and aristocrats, the posthumous Goya became best known for his most personal and unusual pieces – the dark, haunting portraits of the deathly, privately expressive “Black Paintings” that he produced in his old age – which are exhibited today at central Madrid's Museo del Prado.
Francisco de Goya's, Two Old Men Eating Soup (1819-23), Oil on canvas
And it was the same Goya who rightly said: The sleep of reason brings forth monsters. Therefore what better choice than this deceased artist to lead us through a freshly radical insight into the application of UK employment law – both in theory and practice. After a life of thought and expression, who better to judge and reassess this legal system than Goya – a court painter with an independent mind...
Goya crucially pinpoints the concept of reason in his assertion, which is of supreme interest to employment factions, given that the term reasonable is the shifting jelly of British employment law – its wriggling amphibian and self-renewing cartilage. To apply Goya’s phrase in an employment context results in some frightening realisations, and the questions fly in:
Do people working at night get treated less reasonably? And do they treat others less reasonably?
If not, then when does reason take its sleep – the same time every day, or according to every possible chaotic whim?
[Thinking it out] It's certainly not at night; it would be far too regular for such a force to abide by the rigid pattern of a commuter in the metronome.
Cease the questions! and recognise this; that reason has to sleep each day but does so without warning – at times when a down-looker becomes terse, jealous, disinterested, and so on. Are you a boss, a fruit-picker, higher up the tree? You may find it's a struggle not to let your eyes close and fall. A nap at the ready may be a wise precaution when these impulses arrive... And for best results that would go for everyone, fruit baskets aside.
Not feasible? I sense a reluctance. It's such a pity that naps have an undeserved, subversive reputation. Dare we consider then, for the less flexible out there, that no amount of cartilage can prevent a dark painting of a monster coming across the mind from time to time; and that the paint may be too thick for jelly to scrub off. An objective lawyer (devoid of all self-interest) would advise: “Don't resort to law”. Three cheers! quite right... Too much damage to either side. We should go to art instead, and throw our blackened jelly around in celebration of this new foresight!
At this point, as a convincer, it's right for Goya to reveal his second revelation: that reason is the mother of the arts. But a new test subject is needed. Introduce a father of law – one who is by no means the origin of marvels, or reason, limited as he is by his bookshelf (sorry Aristotle). So what of the child of these two? – the child and test subject. But first, are we not already tempted to entice the ghost of a despairing old painter with a black brush to wipe away our employment law problems with a short reflective sentence? A few outside words in place of procedure? Perhaps you want some evidence, more answers.
“What would the child of this couple be like, who thinks a lot? An artist mixing with law? Dreaming in a neck tie?... A wig of paint, forbid it!”
They'd be like me. A new hybrid.
The first practical hybrid lesson: Carry a paintbrush with you at all times as you make your way across whatever canvas you find yourself bonded to in your day – a brush that's your own inanimate mother of the arts, adept in the delicate art of monster pacification. Unbond yourself with it and sit between the parents of law and art – now you can be whoever you want to be. Jelly is biodegradable, after all, while the paint we're talking about is cared for in museums. I sense a shift. Forum non conveniens! To the studio! Paint and jelly can mix for a while, as an experiment... So stand between the lines, there's room for us all. Thanking you Goya, for being reasonable and for inspiring an alternative modern solution. Let's think it over... can art be the root of law? Can existing art unlock reasoned fluidity in a new approach to law? Either that or art can inspire us to avoid law altogether in favour of a more creative solution – with or without the need for new hybrid representatives to set our expectations... (Forbid it!) Paint-spattered neck ties are to be the symbol of the shift – the future of the future. They'll soon be appearing in dual theatre-courtrooms – indoor areas with wild colours, impressive curtains and well-rehearsed stage music.
[The judge rises] “Now let's break for lunch, learned friends; cadmium jelly is being served in the stately cafeteria. Someone's trying to tell us something!””
[Offstage shouts] “The specials board's been smeared with mustard....”
[Judge] “And our motto seems to have changed.... It's all so different. Oh, my feet aren't stuck to the floor! But I'm not worried... let's run with it.”
Francisco de Goya's, Women Laughing (1821-3), Oil
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