The Blueprint is The Oxford Blue’s arts publication. It showcases creative work in a range of artistic media, providing a space to share thoughts, stories and personal experiences.

Issue No. 8—Silence

“Silence is so freaking loud.”

Sarah Dessen

The final instalment of our sensory series contemplates the myriad ways in which silence might manifest. Artists and creatives explore the power of a voice, the warmth of a comfortable silence, and the chilling void caused by environmental destruction.

Featured Artist: Khadijah Ali

Magical Realism – Khadijah Ali

Magical Realism’ envisions an ethereal utopia. The photograph paints a serene scene as the models immerse themselves in the natural world. They engage themselves with works of philosophy and literature and take in the tranquil surroundings. The work pushes no particular message but rather invites the viewer to, like the models, take time for observation and reflection.

Tulips – Lily Down
Photograph by Khadijah Ali

‘Let’s go away,’ Caspar said into the quiet darkness of the living room.
‘You want to run away?’, Noah asked. ‘ What have you done now?’
‘I’m not running from the law, Noah. I think I should be offended.’
‘Yes, dear, I’m very sorry. I know you’d never get caught.’
‘Thank you.’ Caspar said. ‘I was serious, though. Let’s go on holiday.’
‘Yeah. Get the train on Friday, come back on Sunday. Get away from the city.’
Noah looked over at Caspar in the dark, illuminated only by the light of the muted television. ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Let’s go away.’ 

The city’s sounds fade slowly. The train’s noise is a comforting constant; the rumbling of the belly of a beast. Caspar makes up stories about a dragon made out of metal crawling on its belly on the tracks, and Noah laughs at his ridiculousness. The story makes no narrative sense, which Noah points out. ‘Shush, Noah, I’m getting to the good bit.’ 

The good bit is a battle between the dragon and a knight, and Noah tries not to roll his eyes at the fairytale cliché. He leans against Caspar, lets the sound of the story echo inside his head. 

The cottage Caspar rented for the weekend is quiet and still. There are flowers on the table. Caspar puts on some terrible music, asks Noah if he wants to cook, or explore the cottage, or go for a walk. Caspar’s always been good at talking, and he fires off questions as soon as he thinks of them. While he’s talking, Noah is happy to listen, just watch him.

Caspar has always been impossible to not notice; impossible to look away from. He’s the centre of attention, the life of the party. He doesn’t talk; he proclaims, he exclaims, he shouts. Everything he does draws notice unapologetically, and Noah is constantly in awe of Caspar’s mind, how quickly he moves from one topic to the next, and how he drags Noah with him into the next fantastic scheme. Eventually Caspar runs out of things to say, and looks at Noah. 

‘Well,’ he says, ‘what do you want to do?’

‘All of that.’ Noah says. ‘It all sounds good.’ 

They go to see the tulips.
It’s not the perfect day for it. It’s a little cloudy, a little chilly.
Standing in the meadow, everything is quiet and still. There are people around, taking in the sights with them, but they seem far away somehow, even though Noah can hear snippets of their conversations. Caspar is still, too.
Noah looks at the flowers, taking in the colours that would seem garishly bright any day other than today. Noah thinks how they must be overwhelmed by each other, struggling to make out their own identity in the midst of the boldness of other flowers that look just the same.
He looks at Caspar. 

Caspar is holding a flower. He tucks it behind Noah’s ear. 

He takes Noah’s hand. 

It’s that simple. 

When the Whale Sang – Alicia Hayden
Art by Alicia Hayden @aliciahaydenwildlife

I am a young, award-winning wildlife artist who enjoys working in biro to create pieces which showcase animals’ characters, and communicate environmental messages. ‘When the Whale Sang’ was created to demonstrate the impact of anthropogenic noise pollution on whales, and how it is harming their populations. The whale is fragmented into sonar noise waves to illustrate the connection between noise pollution and cetaceans. The message conveyed is how action must be taken to minimise the levels of this noise pollution in our oceans, before the damage creates irreversible repercussions for marine wildlife.
‘When the Whale Sang’ won David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s ‘Human Impact’ category, and the inaugural Ingrid Beazley Award 2021.

Quiet – Bethan Draycott
Photograph by Khadijah Ali
Dusk arrives quietly - 
The face the light makes
   just before it leaves. 
Suspended in that wall of silhouettes and
And in the quiet 
The world is an opera 
of shadowed limbs
of impressionists, laughing at their own barbed wit. 
That bed is not a bed
But an open wound,
Cascades of flesh-white, 
Stained silk, blood-red,
Seeping, remembering. 
Creasing with the weight of a ghost. 
This pen, not a pen -
Here is a willing puncture. 
Gunshot of ink 
through paper skin 
to pollute the rivers of veins and then thick
black clouds release the sky beneath. What relief
to hear the sound of rain again.
Confusion is a kiss
Grief is an ambush
I, a walking scream 
My jaw gapes open at the hinges of my mind 
And silence flowers from my throat
Like bile.   

Silent – Khadijah Ali
Painting by Khadijah Ali

‘Silent’ is an acrylic painting on canvas of two female lovers affectionately embracing each other. Their relationship is secret for fear of homophobic judgment from their society. The painting conveys the tenderness of their physical touch in the fleeting moment when they are alone. Silence exists both in the painting and in the viewer as they look at the subjects.

Regardless of my silence – Aiden Tsen
Photograph by Khadijah Ali
Normally I speak.
Very well actually
(Or so I’m told):
Long, flowing sentences,
Long, complicated words,
Passion in my tone.
Fitting for an Oxford student.

They see that part of me.
“How are you autistic?”
They say.
“You sound so normal.”

Sometimes I can’t speak.
Words jumbled, mangled
(Language is hard):
A sentence without sense,
A short word in edgeways.
Passion isn’t conveyed
Over speech-to-text.

They might see that part of me.
“I see how you’re autistic,”
They say.
“You sound like a freak.”

Rarely I can’t even understand you.
Sentences flow underwater
Comfort and drowning combine.
Passion doesn’t
Matter anymore.

You’ll never see that part of me:
I know you’ll judge me. At least
I can’t hear you say

Does it have to be this way?
Regardless of my ability to speak,
Regardless of my silence,
I’m still Me.
I’m still Human.

Photo Series – Khadijah Ali

Chapter’ and ‘Flicker’ depict the bubble of serenity formed around us when we read. Literature provides an escape from the hecticness of everyday life and allows us to transport ourselves into a character’s life. When we read a good book, we become absorbed by the words on the page and shut ourselves off from the noises around us. The photographs portray the model’s concentration on the book she is reading, and she holds her finger to her lips as if she wants the world around her to be quiet so she can concentrate. We imagine the noise created in her mind by the conversations and narration in the novel.

‘Contemplate’ and ‘Where’s Wally’ offer two different depictions of the same model. In both photographs the model is silent and gazes directly into the camera lens, yet each image creates a different mood. Contemplate is serious and mysterious: we wonder what the model is hiding from us. Where’s Wally is a peaceful and relaxed: the model appears more comfortable in his surroundings. The photographs illustrate how silence can be either nerve-inducing or reassuring. Silence may be present because there is a secret being withheld, but silence may also be present as a moment for contemplation.

‘Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’ and ‘Suffocate’ explore the duality of silence. Suffocate indicates an inability to hear or speak that comes from within oneself. This could be a choice or could be something inherent to ourselves, such as deafness or aphasia. Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil depicts how other people can prevent us from speaking or hearing, alluding to indoctrination, censorship, and authority. The images question our assumptions about why people might not speak or listen.

Blackout – Emily Broughton
Photograph by Khadijah Ali
Silence follows the darkness 
like a child clinging
to its parent’s hand

The ghosts cease their moaning
					(perhaps the walls crawled with wires and not phantom nails)
The screens stop their storytelling
					(they are as mute as closed books with no voice to tell tales)
The lights quiet their singing
					(their humming soundtrack fades, stutters and fails)

A heavy blanket muffles the world
snuffing out lights across the horizon
until only the sunset remains

Untouched by the blackout
the light shines and rolls across the earth
too leisurely to make a noise

That’s a wrap for TT21! Look out for more exciting editions to come.

Curated and edited by Emily Broughton and Yundi Li