This is a more balanced piece than the celebrated Cigar Bar: there is more congruence between the woman’s figure and gestures and the general moody atmosphere. It’s remarkable how the artist makes a completely different statement by basically replicating the premise — painting the same scene, with only a few changes. Most of the differences are limited to more fluent body movements of the lady; she appears to be at peace with herself, even if the self-acceptance implies a kind of weariness or apathy.
The most obvious divergence from the Cigar Bar is the placement of the drink (in relation to the customer): here it is much closer to the lips of the drinker, who appears to have just taken a sip. Although the set of traits exhibited by the gentleman — being mysterious, plunged in thought and lonely — recurs here too, the woman shows signs of disappointment, wisdom and life experience. These additional qualities demystify the figure considerably, but add a touch of charm and languorous elegance that the man, so it would seem, would never be able to grasp. This a richer, more sensual and humane painting; the counterpart is crisper and more energetic. Perhaps the best words for a comparison would be simply feminine versus masculine.
The glasses and the bottles assume symbolical meaning, both echoing and implying the woman’s fragility. There are countless imaginable scenarios: she may be nervously waiting for someone who will never arrive — a situation that could break her heart — and each glass and bottle may seem to clink and tremble along with her inner self. The sheer number of glass objects further accentuate her fragility (both physical and emotional). Her body’s shape resembles a slender champagne glass, or a bottle; overall, the glass intensifies the mood and enriches it with an understated dimension of precipice, danger and risk.
Finally, one has to wonder where is the barman, in both paintings. After all a bar is a place where people congregate for the sake of spending time together and enjoying each other’s company. Even if someone prefers to remain in total solitude (in a venue meant to be crowded), there is always the barman somewhere around, the ubiquitous steward who traditionally absorbs some of the drinkers’ gloom. We witness here an artificial situation where no one except the principle person is visible: this prompts to guess that something has happened, something serious and unexpected, or at least about to happen. Once again, in these two bestselling paintings Brent Lynch probed into the postmodernist psyche, expressing some of its collective fears and anxieties.