What to write, what to paint? This afternoon I started on a new painting I had been thinking about for days.
The scene: a long figure walking down a dark snowy street lined with duplexes, the man going to work early in the morning, still dark, a snow storm raging, the sky luminous orbs of the street lights.
I primed the canvas, three wood panels rather, as another snowbound painting was to follow. I then outlined the row of houses, balconies and staircases, all heading to the vanishing point up the street where the man, whom I also outlined with a brush, would turn left at the corner and head for the bus stop. The bus would then take him to the Angrignon metro station; from there to school and a class of art students. Today, we’re going to talk about…
But something was wrong. What? The perspective was okay, as was the storm, and I even took a picture. Complete, I could even judge it that, and walk away satisfied, but I didn’t.
I whitewashed the painting, grey and blue, and the outline of a young man emerged and the result is as below. I only understood what I had done when it was finished and I stepped back.
I know where this comes from, why the only name I could give it was ‘Us’, and what it meant. I was deeply moved, marveled at how mysteriously the piece arose, emerged, appeared.
Exhilerated? Only a moment. The underlying and persistent feeling is humility, but also a sense of lost opportunities, or simply loss. And painting may well be a way to regain or re-present the loss in a literally new or different light.
Writers write autobiograpical some of the time, using bits and pieces of their past, rewriting personal histories, altering facts to fit the fiction to the author’s pleasure and, hopefully, the reader’s delight. In the visual arts, mining the past for elements assumes a different character, more ambigous, the approach oblique, the mixture abstract emotion rather than the hard rock-hard bricks of word upon word required to evoke what the painter creates with a brush stroke.
Only a brush stroke is not a word, the equivalent of a word. Kcuf you, two words, in two brush strokes may be rendered by some more imaginative painter than myself, but if a picture is the equivalent of a thousand words, two words, like the aforementioned, are the neat quick summation of countless strokes, presumably black across the scorned targets portrait, or a tearing up or slashing of that same picture, performance art that, I suppose.
At the same time, if from the picture below, I were to explain the what and why, it would be take hours and/or fill a novel, and if I have had any success as a writer it has been as a poet, not a novelist, despite the time and effort in writing my novels.
Poetry, then, is more like painting. It strikes fast and hard, or it simmers and lingers with time, in time. Like one’s own past that I won’t let die for all the love, all the hope, friendship, loneliness and melancholy, the expectation and curiosity, the thrills and mystery, hardships, work and frustrations felt and experienced on the way to becoming what I shall never be: satified.