More art, all drawn in London over the past month or so.
He’d gotten as far as piling them up and fetching the matches before the will to set them alight sloped away from him, an exhilarating thought drained in an instant of all value. It would be childish, cowardly even to condemn the sheets to the flames, an act of bitterness not liberation. It would have been an act though, it would have been something which, sat at the scene of his placidity, was all he’d really desired.
The sketches were a life’s work, his life’s work. A personality defined in ink and paint and charcoal, a rigid skeleton for his life to hang off of. That’s what they had been anyway, now they were just a mockery, the jibing graffiti of a dead self, there only to remind him of how far he’d sunk over the years from being that soul wallpapered by it’s own creations to the desolate concrete bunker he’d made of himself now.
When and why the change had come he didn’t know, certainly there’d been no conscious breaking point between the old and the new forms of self he’d lived through. He’d never accepted defeat or abandoned his art, instead he’d just moved through it, broken through to the other side of the miasma of creativity that he’d once believed immense enough to fill the universe, to find himself stood in absolute nothingness. No more ideas, no more creations, no more art, no more anything, just longing gazes behind him as if the past might beckon him back and all would be as it was again.
That was the mood in which, in a frenzy, he’d hurled the stacks of forgotten ideas and projects, finished or still underway, into a heap and resolved himself to condemn all that he’d lost to flames. If it was gone it could be forgotten perhaps, or at the very least the mocking derision of what he had done would be stricken from his sight. The memories and loss might have lingered anyway but for a moment it had seemed like it might help.
He threw the matches to the other side of the room and slumped down. Childish, cowardly. What right had he to strike at that better man who’d created these things? How could he imagine that there was any gain to be made from hacking away at the icon he’d made of his own past? Temper tantrums didn’t make more of the person having them, they simply elevated their target by virtue of comparison. A knowledge that sapped all will from him, even knowing he’d seen the truth did nothing to offer comfort. The pictures had to stay, which meant they had to continue judging him, sneering at the empty vessel out of which all value had been drained.
With the fury of the moment passed he remembered the one option that remained to him, the one that presented no passion or intent but simply was. If they wouldn’t go, he would. After all, he’d already seen the passing of the only part of himself worth living for.
For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.
During my time in Nepal (and more on that later, perhaps) I found myself in a writing slump. Not a bad one, I’ve finished a new novel which I’m currently editing to the point of literary perfection, but the sort of lull that comes when you’ve spent a while living in your own world. Coming back to reality is always a slightly off putting experience after that, partially frustrating, sometimes isolating but always a noticeable shift from the steady (and sometimes glorious) immersion of a big project. So in an attempt to hold myself back from habitual drinking and the talking of nonsense with passersby I picked up a pen and paper and drew some stuff. After that (and during it, for that matter) I got on with the habitual drinking and of talking nonsense too and regarding that – a special thanks to Sam’s Bar of Kathmandu (and V, owner/barmaid extraordinaire) for putting up with me occupying a quiet corner for my arting.
Anyway, I’m no artist, I claim no talent and have no skills but I did enjoy taking the time to play with a form that I could give in to without getting caught up in the need to be good at it. It was a nice way to lean back from words but still create something, no matter how minor, that I could look at with at least a little pride. I recommend it, create something or, if you already create stuff as a passion/job/vocation, create something unrelated, enjoy a little freedom with your thoughts.
Now I’m back I’d like to do more drawing (and a couple of these have been done in London) but just as a hobby, a way to claim some space away from more involved work. For now though here are the fruits of my limited labours…
Some images trawled from the last year or so of this blog, posted for no reason in particular.
I spent a few hours at the Tate Modern the other day.
My knowledge of art is, at best, completely non-existent. I know what I like and, in general, I’m willing to give the rest the benefit of the doubt, assuming it’s got some sense of purpose or emotion behind it even if I’m blind to it. Anyway, I saw some things that impressed me, others I was fairly indifferent to and some which I’m sure could impress other people even if they meant nothing to me. And then I wrote some poetry, angling as I am for the title of most pretentious bearded man in the Greater London area – a coveted award I’m glad to say I’ll almost certainly never attain unless scratching my balls and watching the X-Files becomes a qualification.
Anyway, I’ll be posting a few pieces over the next few days which were – though it pains me to use the terminology – ‘site specific’ as well as trying to dredge up some of the images that I was staring at in between scribbling.
Overall though my impression was a slightly depressing one. It’s not the first time I’ve been there, it’s conveniently placed between several pubs and out of the rain which are both important qualities in a place as far as I’m concerned. It’s probably the first time I’ve bothered to think about the Tate Modern as anything more than another tourist attraction though. Easily forgotten against the backdrop of London as a city I live in, as opposed to one I ever bother to experience.
‘Depressing’ might be the wrong word for it really, disappointing perhaps? Dissatisfying. Something beginning with ‘d’ at any rate. It wasn’t because of the art, or the tourist hordes, or the earnest gallery goers, or the less earnest ones who felt that being seen there was as much the point as anything. It was a vague sense of unease at the place itself, something I can’t blame any human influence for. Inside there are hundreds of pieces, probably, all desperately attempting to translate some experience, observation, message or emotion through any number of mediums and all, ultimately, doomed to failure. I saw work which was drawn from war, suffering, passion, commitment, some was good, some did nothing for me but everything was overwhelmed by the white walls and measured cleanliness of the place itself. Just stepping through the entrance to the turbine hall was enough to cut off life as it’s lived from art as it’s experienced. One immediate, forceful, inescapable, the other neatly codified, observable and tame. Which is sad, really. Life goes into art, purpose goes into art and it’s not a tame or gentle thing – it’s a vicious force, in some cases at least, it’s a scream to try and force some awareness, or understanding of something that needs understanding. Or it’s a push, a shove to make the viewer try to think about or experience something which the artist thinks has value, or necessity. Put that against white walls though, put it above the gift shop and next to the cafe, lined up against another six works and on a circuit leading from the horrors of war to the perfection of sculpture and… you get nothing. You get a place which is an avoidance of life, a negation of the realities of it, a safe space to sit and watch what you know are powerful things – because it says so on little square plaques – without having to relate them to the world in which you’re actually living.
Fair enough, I suppose. You can’t stick a load of paintings by the bus stop, they’d get nicked, or rained on, but then they’d also have some real force behind them too. At the bus stop you’re living your life, at the Tate Modern you’re touring a dozen other people’s. Probably not a particularly profound observation as far as art goes, but there you go, as I said – I’m an ignorant bastard about these things.
One thing that did stick out, one feature which did impress me as being a direct message to the experience of being in the place rather than one transported into it for the sake of convenience, was a piece of living art. A woman in one of the rooms who, whenever the room seemed full enough, turned away from facing the wall and started to chant/sing. ‘This is propaganda and you know it’. There’s a message I can get behind, because it is. The Tate Modern, maybe other galleries too, is a grand work of propaganda for the human species. It’s a forum where all the bad and the good, all the inescapable, overwhelming aspects of our experience are cleaned up, given nice lighting and set aside from us so we can look at it with disconnected serenity. And even better, we can tell ourselves, even if we know it’s not quite true, that when we stared at the work we saw the emotions and thoughts that made it staring back at us, we understood something. But I can’t say I did to be honest, much as I could sense there was something there to be understood, I was still standing outside of real life and it’s only there where you can find clarity worth having.