Debbie Caruana Dingli

The Husband

Debbie Caruana Dingli

Watercolour and charcoal. 2000.

The Husband formed part of Debbie Caruana Dingli’s 2001 solo exhibition titled Games People Play. Despite its light-hearted outward appearance, the collection had consisted largely of humorous expositions of the falsity and pretences that she observed in the relationships between people.

As the artist stated, “I love people-watching… either on the bus, or anywhere really”, and it is this acute sense of observation which makes her paintings so relevant.

In The Husband the viewer is placed in the middle of an awkward formal gathering. The presence of three ladies at the centre of which we find one seemingly loud robust woman in a blue dress clasping on to her cake faced husband’s hand makes us wonder at the absurdity of the situation. The two women framing her are almost turning their noses up at what she is saying, whilst the men seem to be utterly flabbergasted. The women are oblivious to the husband’s situation, focused almost with sheer contempt at what the central woman is saying.

One can almost compare the moral judgement given in Peter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘The Peasant Wedding’ and look at this painting as a modern day take on the notion that the festivities have deteriorated into self-indulgence. The phrase ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’ comes to mind implying that these people should not attempt to have more than is reasonable by trying to keep up appearances.