Film making made painting a flamboyant performance. Picasso draws on film with a flashlight in the dark. Some ferocious film star with a chiselled superhero jaw line dashes off a Van Gogh. A guy in a trendy lumber-jacket knocks off a couple yards of lonesome pines and autumn splendour in a vigorous Canadian heritage moment. I putter about.
I was a white flaneur.
For the visuals alone.
In a winter city on side street I’d forgotten, back on the ice on a pressing errand, renewing an expired passport, I regained, in my great new boots, the texture of a lost time spent in passionate attachment, in the rare contentment of the romantic in me.
The graffiti in the city was all faded like a Polaroid but it suddenly looked familiar. The old post office had kept its outer good lines. The new cafe inside was excellent, kinder than it was hip, and I recognized the bread of an old life when it made my Waldorf sandwich. I’d stop in at the old place, i recalled, in east city. But now here there was no marble or stainless steel in the old post office building. Could have been anywhere really.
I’d been predicting a hard loss, and, premourning, stumbled into a street I had forgotten. The pleat and fold, reprieve and criminality in forgetting. not having everything at my fingertips.
So I bought that Sagan novel in the bookstore at last after these twenty years. Forever home. The heart keeper.
Later I’d been punched in one too many times that day when I took the elevator to a fifth floor apartment on a hillside with an old Anglican church above us to the right where the homeless had their winter camp among the sensible arrangement of fir trees, tents of beach ball material as bright as Bruegel caps. We went out on the balcony to smoke watching the sun setting behind the town, the back side of the east side of the main street. We pointed out the windows we’d lived behind, had gazed out over the years.
We knew we were lucky to have lived such passionate, handsome lives. The little lights came up in a three story mostly town. Here and there some monstrosity of a mall or highrise. The main street with all the queasy tension of the movie the elephant man, given over to meth and well locked financial consultancies. Smart carriages rolling by though. A town punching up as ever though on music and food. Performance spaces. hard nosed musicians and artists.
The life and death conversation picked up where it has these thirty odd years. A few familiar pieces of imposing furniture in newly gained rooms. Caring and not caring. old lines and new. An old love returned, We talked rapid fire, bragged we were the lucky ones, unalterably attached and eternally self amused by the visuals alone. Even their grief has a certain grace in its roomful of art supplies and ashes,
At home. I stare at a complicated composition, like it is an impenetrable wall, a forest wall, looking for a way back in, stare until I find access, a need for correction, clarification, and forget myself, regain myself, what have you. What have you? A little break in the woods needing yellow. The sky colour reflected on a lily pad. The cock of a hip.
It is a lucky thing to gamble on ones own talent and then to be embarrassed by one’s modest good fortune. The world without, the world within. That is the cross we bear, that is the main intersection, what we are, infinite within, infinite without. Carl Jung talks with his old guru in the garden in Zurich about it. From the office window he would seem to be alone.
I have a luxury of Japanese brushes. I inherited 2 batches of paint and brushes such as I’ve never been able to afford.
My hand is too set in habit for new brushes to make much difference in my final product but if I take care of them I have brushes to last my life. Some of the brushes have hairs worn by another painter’s work, and carry at my first use of them, another painters inflections. This is a little melancholy but hopeful too.
My favourite brushes are still the ones I trim down, neatly, deftly, knowingly. You make your pleasures where you can. You make your own fun for a long time and you fear you’ve come to prefer it to Face-book, to the lover lonesome like a hound, to land claims Indians and white Trumper aunties sharing memes about Jesus in the family tree.
I usually work on a few paintings at once, brooding and watching the paint dry. I carry a batch of fresh colour from picture to picture so as not to waste and dirty paint. I’m not chaotic or passionately messy. People find it quite boring really, and don’t linger in the studio for drama.
Ah the picture, the assuming object, I’m always putting it together like Grandma’s jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen table, considering negative space and how a thing is what it isn’t. Blindness and vision. How some picture tries to be an equivalent of its subject.
I inhabit each painting a while, creating it as I go. Every move is crucial, like I’m playing a video game, the physical tensions are sometimes like that. Just a game to the looker-on. I’m done when I know, when I have seen the privileged spectacle, what i wanted to see for the night.
Drawing with paint. Drawing close, drawing apart.