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By: David Minton
‘It’ is ever-present. It does things whilst he watches and reflects. It visits places where he feels uncomfortable, a bull in what seems to be the fragile china shop of the mind. The bull has a habit of trampling on things that are as yet incomplete as well as causing further damage to pieces of this and that that clutter the floor, already hurt, underlining the point. It reveals weakness, threatens ridicule.
# 18 [20 November 2012]
A different kind of day. He began with the intention of painting, but mind and muscles were reluctant. He was going to paint an outline image of a bird. Each time he put brush to surface, the result was clumsy. "Draw then," It suggested, "Loosen up." The line idea lasted a few seconds until the drawing took on a life of its own. He liked the first marks and followed them. The conversation played out between mind eye and mark is physically satisfying, a way of acting out, using an 'H'pencil. The lead offered resistance which had to be overcome in action. The dark outline with a 5B pencil was to an extent an admission of defeat. His 'artist' needed a little more contrast. Crime Scene popped into His mind.
# 17 [12 November 2012]
He got into a little difficulty recently. "What about?" It asked. He has this thing about taste, which exercises his brain like an itch. It was about intuition. How does an artist know when something is finished, or what to do next? "Not that again, you do go on a bit!" It accused. "That's the sort of question that people ask who have no real understanding of the way artists work." It continued. It's right, and the response of those with whom He was engaged in conversation was of a degree of shock that the notion of intuitive judgement should be so agnostically questioned, or at least as He put it distrusted.
"An intuitive act is not a matter of your choice. It chooses you. You fall into it. You give yourself to it or not." "But is an intuitive act still not a matter of taste?" He asked defensively. "Yes" It replied, "And taste can be a pretty crass thing." "Taste is everywhere the same in principle and everywhere individual in practice." I sit to one side and watch as the circles continue to turn. He decided following the conversation to paint as far as possible 'intuitively', just as He always does really but to stop worrying about it. This painting had been wandering around in circles. He looked at it, imagined things and painted. He did something and then decided to do something else, adding or removing as he went. If something appealed, he went with it. He had to make assumptions, such as what looked nice or otherwise, but were those intuitive as well? Meandering lines are nice. Colours meeting are nice. Contrasts are nice. Semi transparency is nice. Thick paint is nice. "Are some better than others?" It asked, "How do you know when to stop?" "Be quiet!" was his response.
# 16 [25 October 2012]
"So what has all this achieved?" It demands. "That last painting - is it your last painting? It was something of a mess, wasn't it?" He had to agree. He had pressed on with it in despite misgivings. The one piece of painting that He enjoyed was the descriptive piece. As He painted the legs, they actually stood out from the bird- it pleased Him, made Him smile. It was worth the mess to get to that. A lot of the doodling is half-buried now. "You just won't admit that all you really want is to paint and draw pictures of things, will you?" What a question! He does feel that there ought to be more to what He is doing than that; He wants there to be more to it than that. Otherwise, what is it? Just copying things? How can all this blogging and being on a-n be justified if there is no real purpose to it all? Some dead birds, a bit of composition, a touch of the mysterious, and appearing a little odd, is that what it is, for this identity thing, a portrait of identity where there is none. It pokes fun. "Maybe it's a proposal!! Painting as Proposal for the absent Self?"
# 15 [11 October 2012]
The need to paint is a physical thing that hangs around the nerve endings.. He always wanted to be an 'artist'. He learned the physicality of painting from 'Archie' Campbell, his teacher at school. Archie showed slides of his work, smelled of turpentine, painted in a lovely physical way, no 'filling in', no neatness: the way Archie applied paint was formative for 'Him'. And Lawrence Self, at Art School, whose paintings made His fingers itch to paint, and His mouth water.
A life lived contentedly with itchy fingers and mouth-watering paint ought to suffice and be immensely rewarding. But there are other motivations, love of praise, desire for recognition, status, all the selfish longings, the wish to be bigger, in a bigger world. He is no doubt, (or hopefully?) not alone in living a life that almost wilfully avoids the truth, misses the point. Misplaced modesty too plays its part in mis-shaping ambition. This painting is a kind of doodle on a canvas that went nowhere. It is a scattering of things from His pockets, stuff that He carries around and forgets, a counting of change whilst waiting for the bus. 'It' pokes at the sore, "You're not really an artist. You just want to be seen as one, to have an identity. It's a romantic idea. You don't know who you are." He knows all this. 'It' is not telling Him anything that He has not suspected. But His salvation might still lay with the paint.
# 14 [29 September 2012]
"Does He believe all that stuff?" He enjoys it. That may be the worst of it.
He lives daily with a degree of anxiety. Writing is an uneven pleasure. He doesn't want to be a smartarse, but that is how He looks to Himself sometimes. He's at his most vulnerable when He is pleased with something. That's when 'It' enters with doubt and discouragement. "Why do you write this stuff in public?" It asks. "Does it not look pathetic?" "It's a kind of mirror," He replies, " He makes the image before looking into it." "Crazy!" 'It' responds. "More repetition - mirror, mirror on the wall. Hoping to be the fairest?" Here is something of a quiet insanity of a man looking into a mirror only to see the back of his own head, (Magritte'La Reproduction Interdite') about it all. The image is a straitjacket for the man.
Parmigianino's Pigeon. He loves the sound and rhythm of 'Parmigianino'. The 'Madonna of the Long Neck', he has always found to be an amusing title. The alliterative thought of 'Parmiaganino's Pigeon' made Him smile. This little series involving titles continues tentatively. "But don't change the subject, why in public?" 'It' insists. "The man has no choice but to keep looking for a face that he will never see." "His anxiety involves a fear of being found out, of the finger pointing at His vanity, of a ridiculous face. Going public is a double bluff." "As if it mattered to anybody else!" 'It' countered.
# 13 [27 September 2012]
"This business of the repetitive, how does it come about?" He does not choose to be Himself but rather finds Himself in experience. Being this 'Artist' is a curious thing. It may be not that He MUST be the Artist, but that the 'art' channels His repetitive need. He MUST repeat. Repeating is a return. This mounting pile of bird work is a continuous loop whose ostensible subject-matter enables Him to acceptably satisfy the repetitive need. Allied to a degree of competence, it disguises and reveals something pathological. This drawing is not an image or a representation. Its making created something real. Lacan wrote that the real is " ..that which always returns to the same place." "Don't try to be clever!", 'It' snaps. I watch his reaction. Like the beachcomber He comes across things that look interesting, useful. Bits of Lacan, bits of Steiner, bits of string, bits of thinking, detached pieces of larger worlds that bob up uncontrollably, glinting, to the surface. Bits of things are interesting in their own right. He does what He can. Moments of 'Yes, I understand.', are just that, moments. And then He returns to a time before He understood, to repeat the process. That is where He lives, in that space. The mounting pile may one day amount to something that makes sense, if bits of this and that find that their shapes fit. The shaded boundary of the bird, merging with the background, the not quite formed feathers create through the repetitive actions of their making, something that cannot be completed, that is 'almost' and which colludes with need to create desire.
"Do you believe all that stuff?" 'It' slapped him awake. "Don't you think it might all be rather silly, unreal?"
# 12 [21 September 2012]
Thoughts cannot be resisted. Thoughts arise as He draws. The act of shading is a waiting game. Repetition, slow movement, gradual emergence, an avoidance technique, drawing as tangential life. He shades, something is released in passing, a consequence. He draws to escape, leave something behind, to put something off. 'It' suggests that he is avoiding commitment, a notion that 'I' has previously suspected. The longer He waits the keener is His anticipation. Anal retentive? It fits with a general inability to like things. Describable condition? Satisfaction gained from the physical repetitiveness of shading is substantial, a confirmation of self. The act is what He is. To anticipate is to be alive. I want a degree of disassociation from His more crass thoughts. 'I' want 'Him' at arm's length, to observe from a graspable distance. His thoughts as 'It' has pointed out can be pretty maudlin. "He should be past all this by now.", It suggests. It's right. Sometimes I feel for Him. He is a child on tiptoe at the window. I watch as 'It' bullies Him. He is omnipotent and powerless, no contradiction here, incompatible with Himself, a seesaw of extremes, dynamic imbalance of sorts. I remember Him so small at Christmas time looking up at the dining table where the grownups played cards. Is this why He feels Himself to be at the margins? He wrote of another artist, that she seemed to be saying, "Hey! Here I am!" The silence of a drawing can be profound. 'It' dares the child to shout. 'He' feels the silence as He works. Touch it gently. Build it slowly. I am satisfied for a while.
# 11 [8 September 2012]
"Why does He always try to keep at a distance from me?" It asked. "He doesn't like you," I replied. "You're all the things that He doesn't want to be. You embarrass Him, following Him around." "But that's pathetic, if 'It' was not here, neither would 'He' be. He cannot invent a distance that is not there? Truth is, I tell Him things that He doesn't want to hear. Admittedly, I'm inclined to a cruel edge, and He's afraid of me. This art stuff is where He hides." There seemed some truth in that. The problem was not that 'It' would not go away, but that 'He' had not challenged It. When It looked Him in the eye, He was beaten.There are times when It rests and He has a little space in which to do something. It is possible for the art to retaliate, beat It back. He enjoyed making these drawings. When It is resting, needy tensions subside, mistakes can be made at leisure. Strange idea, 'making' a drawing. Doing a drawing? That's clumsy. A drawing grows. Can a drawing be grown? Drawing is more like breathing? You think you've discovered something and it turns out to be a cliché.The titling of the birds tickles still. Tracey's Thrush was intended to be more linear, nervously dribbled onto the paper, but the breathing was too relaxed.
# 10 [4 September 2012]
He has not worked for a while. He feels no urgency. He could let his art slip away, ride his bike, buy a cardigan and slippers. The problem of judgements occupies Him. He recalls the moment when he came across the notion of the 'universal subjective validity' of judgements of taste. How strange to be sitting in a library reading such stuff and to feel so delighted. It confirmed a suspicion that he had carried around but could not fully articulate. His enduring inability to be joyful in the company of 'art' and in the company of joyful others leads him to suspect the commission of a lifelong error. It's somehow to do with the finding of a space, and the wrong space, in which to be. There is a strangeness of being that can be controlled if a place can be found for it, where He can 'be' with it. Differences of opinion emerge from differences of feeling? Or is it that we each ascribe meaning to similar events with differing terms? Points of view, opinions, are everywhere, and it can look as though we know what we are talking about, because we behave as though we know what we are talking about. Does this simply follow from confidence disguising ignorance? And there is scholarship. He has begun to recognise the truth that 'It' offers, that He has more opinions than understandings. It is no compensation to know that such is a common human condition. It is the foundation of his loss of urgency. His art may be a mistake.
# 9 [18 August 2012]
He liked the whiteness. Reading yesterday the thought occurred that his reading is like his drawing. Much of the meaning in Steiner's writing is beyond him, but not without also some felt connection. He feels his way through passages of fog to moments of light and back to fog. Returning to this drawing today, he saw immediately the incorrectly proportioned tail, something unnoticed yesterday. Reading Grammars of Creation prompted him to buy Dante's Divine Comedy. Lovely, and like Steiner, full of references that He needs an education in order to understand. But there is enough to hang onto. The whiteness of the bird was the only intended outcome of this drawing, a kind of relaxation in drawing for Him. The way in which the edges of light and dark cling to and reject each other surprised Him. On one side is a white abyss bordered by dark. On the other, whiteness emerges as form. Steiner writes, 'Being is axiomatically twinned with non-being. ; to be is 'not not to be'.' (Grammars of Creation p.104) Just drawing really, but magic. The bird shape is a reason for the external shading. He loves the repetitiveness of shading, like the rhythm of cycling. 'It' noted that it was not the art that he needed, but the repeated releases of doing.