Go On With You Then

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Go On With You Then

Week One

Your letters too. When I receive mail my computer screen fades briefly
to pearly gray and and then it growls. I purr and growl by times.
Sometimes I still fling myself like a tomcat from a flea bitten pile of
quilts. Hearing a growl.

I fell asleep early last night, out like a candle, but I am, as my
grandmother used to say, not too spry this morning. The studio is civil
but the garden looks like a cyclone hit us. I whipped through dead
heading and sabotaging invasive imports known elsewhere as weeds but oh
not here in the land of equal opportunity under the goddess, and I
haven’t picked up after myself yet. Here out in the country village the
bluebottle flies of summer swarm all over the glistening hot new imac
and just give me the willies. No sin in slapping those dear and natural
little creatures. I sing to the cat “Everyone talks about the worrisome
bug but if you live in the delta you gottem. here’s a sure fire way to
pass the time of day, you fold you up a newspaper and swat em.” And that
is what we do. These are brisk young businesslike flies and I am none
too spry as grandma oftentimes noted. And as she still notes when I
don’t pick up properly after myself though she’s dead. As I did not.

This old lady down the street gardens from a wheel chair and attached to
an oxygen tank but between her and her chain smoking son they have the
earliest and latest and healthiest if most garish garden here on cotton
tail lane. Packs the chemicals to them. Wuddever. Looks like Baptist
prayer to me. Corner store flowers, no rain-forest imports, no flowers
sacred to some goddess.

I did brutally, with chemicals and hot water clean all my paintbrushes
today, made better sense of my easel lights. It looks like I’m in
production. Never a convincing setup until I’ve stood there daubing for
a day though. Now the pictures are no longer tucked out of sight for a
rest. I build up a number of pictures in progress and then when there’s
a show I line them up and work on them through various brushes and pats
of paint until they might possibly seem a cohesive group. I work each
one to a point where I’m at a loss as to what to do next and then I stop
and move on to the next and work away till I fuck that one up too. And
so forth. Sensible really, but much of the time it seems nothing’s being
completed, and one is clocked lord knows, by the patron, by one’s self.
Now they’re all lined up again and I can see my mistakes. A dirty dozen.
Mere picture making, as a gentleman in an arts Canada magazine said of
such a process. Right on motherfucker. Let’s not pretend we’re shaking
any foundations.

The news, the news, Europe today, Today, Up All Night,…I wire myself
to it like some sad drugged lonely pavlovian rat. An interviewed scholar
reads “An anonymous senior Bush advisor who spoke with surreal
condescension of ‘the reality-based community’ may have summed up our
cultural moment more acutely than anyone else in years.” No kidding. The
news shows keep me feeling somehow connected to the world, and the
dramas, light and dark provide more believable plots than real village
life here ever affords me. Tonier accents too.

The whole hood here in the smart if beleaguered by hip hop enclave part
of the village looks like a Miss Marple murder mystery waiting to
happen, hot red brick hard and dry and a billion green leaves wilting in
the noonday heat with the tiger lilies blooming let run in the ditches.
The hollyhock flowers are all ice yellow in our yard but for two red
ones like bull’s eyes higher than our heads. The path between them is
the balm of Gilead to the eye, to a northern eye with memories of black
line drawings, frozen and spiky scratched down by a neurotic hand
through a winter nervous for new love in a worn out heart and place and
for firewood and for money. Everybody and his dog headed to warmer
climes.

The economy in the east looks a little pale. Over a trillion yen
injected to sooth nerves says the wireless feed… You’d think that’d be
some help anyway.

I just tap a link and I feel better but the sweet sound of
electro-groove from Paris barely suffices to drown out the constantly
shrieking, horrible children next door. Every day has running in its
bucolic background the erratic and dreadfully terminated scales of a
schoolyard massacre. Standing close to the fence I say to guests: The
screaming? Oh it’s just the family next door. they’re fine. They’re
happy as clams. It’s just how they relate. They’re imbeciles.

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Week two

Artificial Flowers in a Still Life

I’m working on a painting of that silver-plate tea set, for the group
show in September. It’s loaded with personal symbolism for me but it
works as a decorative piece without undo references to my personal
peccadilloes and shoulder chips. I guess. I wonder if that’s best
practice in the lights of Arts Canada magazine. It’s a complicated still
life, red striped fabric and rather ripe apples and fake but lasting
oriental poppies in a jug, with that tea set we favor in the foreground.
A bowl of green apples and a couple more beside it on a table. Eighteen
by twenty inches. The gallery is small so that size shouldn’t seem
piggish, but the colour is flagrant, garish right now and I’m trying to
give it some gravity. Kinda thing.

Though I hadn’t settled to it for more than a week, I was that well
organized I was about five minutes settling in to rapid work when I
decided to do so, avid at it with all the appropriate brushes at hand,
confident without warmup. True fun. Suitable fun for an old lad. I can
think of things I’d rather do.

I’ll paint until about two. One miserly little batch of green paint to
use. Painting can feel so idiotically harrowing sometimes. You get
convinced that rectangle of painted cloth is the most important thing in
the world. It has to be that in yours for a bit, and it isn’t just a
little absurd. Washing up after I feel vaguely post orgiastic, I think
Anita Brookner described it.

I deal with paint a bit and text a bit, go back and forth and the day
and night go by. Culling and describing. I feel in control, here at
least. I picked up a little old paint brush and remembered painting with
it in another room at least seven years ago. I’ve been opening old boxes
out of storage, got my old african cloth from mali back in the studio
too, the geometric black and white pattern. The men in the village weave
the cloth and the women batik it in black river mud. Or vice versa. I
have a vest, and loose beach pants, and a blanket, just for throwing
into paintings.

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Patterns make me curious and furious at the same time. I remember now
painting patterns of interlocking crosses on the backs of crucifixes. It
can be engrossing, entirely, for a bit, but then suddenly I shudder all
over and shake off the focus.

I set up a little table for working on little paintings for this little
show and I’ve been colouring this interlocking, irregular pattern of
terra-cotta tiles in a carved drawing Bert did at a time when he was
compulsively drawing patterns, sort of Mattisse drawings but of men
rather than of women. No easier work painting these,
but more forgiving perhaps than my usual representation, more stylized, and
that has it’s harrowing aspect. I make it all sound very dark sometimes,
but it’s an exhilarating dark, like Prussian Blue or sex in the dark,
painting is, at its best. A touch here, a touch there, a little intense
exploration there. It likely is that simple.

Usually when I work on an little icon size panel it’s small and
pleasant, precarious, mind-numbingly dainty work, but that physical
cramping drops off at the easels.

a chord of paint tubes in a pile, their use to be resumed.

There’s a little response lag, the palm pilot text appears a few second
after I type, scrolls sluggishly behind the thoughts, the itinerant and
resident voices and the fingertips.

The little black keyboard unfolded like a starling’s sturdy and
intricate wing on the studio table.

I become frightened, panicked, when I become machine-like, when I deal
adeptly with what seems a horror to someone else, a bee in the bathroom,
a snag in a morphine patch, a rude and cowardly dismissal, when the
machines work well, from the blog on the palm and the keyboard in my
pocket to the sympathetic skins to relieve the ugliness of the new
windows, this new platform above a backwater street.

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I’m painting in oils from photomorphs. and when I paint like a machine,
from the machine, from printouts of scans altered, I feel its all too
contrived, that I am not impulsive enough. Yeah, right. Oh there’s still
a lot of room for accident, and you want that, but it’s scary when it
all works like clockwork and the accumulation of notions get to the
print, or to the wall on which one establishes one’s perspective. When
the fascination lasts through the mechanics.

And you. Say there’s a party tonight and you don’t want to frighten the
beast in the barnyard on which so much depends, you don’t want to seem
unfeeling, but then again it is one thing to feel and another thing to
observe feeling and the noisiest suffering is not always the deepest,
nor the rowdiest pleasure the deepest. You wonder how you’ll get out of
this one.

I’m fine. Better alone than in company really.

Even the guitar seems content, stays in tune, no longer stretches in
boredom when I’m not looking. It seems a little more sensitive to my
feelings.

The new paintbrushes are all broken in nicely, scrubbed but looking
rumpled, a little pensive, so recently virgin. Shed of a few romantic
notions.

That would be a funny name for one of those quaint little art emporiums
you see along the highway side here, ones with a few cheap lawn chairs
and plywood ornaments for sale out front. They sell like pussy and they
pay the rent. Shed of a Few Romantic Notions. I’m airing the mosquito
netting for the bed out here and aiming for something out of the jewell
in the crown. Looks more like a Klondike whorehouse. What with the
stuffed bears. Alex and Camille.

I in no way regret this solitude in which I now must stand before the
pictures. The absence of commentary. Lord, I find my head is full of
natter even though my old friends and enemies are gone. It was pretty
much just me, all along. I’d become bored with canvasses, or dreaded so
much the chatter in my head that seemed to increase with each brush
stroke that I felt I would not paint. Not that each painting was in any
way a dissertation about painting. I just accumulated marks and tried to
recognize the more deft of them and replaced the idiotic moves with
better ones, layered over idiocy. I was dogged.

Somebody would buy a picture once in a while and it was always somebody
more respectable than me, there was always that bit of encouragement
that paid an injun’s bill and made me feel I was in some measure
understood and communicating something, sometimes, to which another
human being might relate sympathetically. See as worth a pinch of coon
shit.

Painting’s lonely. That’s why people give it up really, or take lessons
and paint in company, hang out in school, join collectives. And why the
work we see is so democratically, companionably dull. Peer Pressure,
har. Much as the blog and contact it engenders distract from painting
sometimes though, they ease the sense of being cut off. Operating in a
void. I’m self amusing, but I get a little wistful if I tune in to the
dogs calling back and forth across town as the moon climbs. I think it
is not too late for a moment. I’d like to give up manufacturing and
niggering in the yard and spend a little time with the ones I hold dear.

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When I keep an eye on the cats, across the way some evenings, I stand in
the pool with the water to my waist like you do in that painting. I
adopt your position as best I can. I like watching the bats flick over
the high hedge that conceals me and my private considerations, the loss
and gain that come with beauty. And the darkness falls. I swim without a
buddy quite confidently and float without a bit of panic staring up at
the moon.

I’ve been drawing steadily, very realistic figures, and am starting to
paint over the drawings with grey and brown and blue tints. You’ll like
these pictures I think. They give me confidence I can at least draw a
figure in proportion. They’re somber things, or at least thoughtful.
Sensuous even.

You’ve listened to me maunder away about painting so much I’ve vowed to
myself it won’t be you listened for nothing. There is no theory anyway,
no system, only submission to a hopefully intelligent inspiration and
control of paint. My rude invoking voice, querulous or like honey for a
fly.

Things are better now.

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Week Three

It’s pushing past midnight now and dead quiet here. I’m typing on my
little Batman palm-pilot with the fold-out keyboard. it just taps
sloppily quiet. Somebody’s drawing slowly closer sedately on a four
wheeler down the back street. There’s just the one street light out the
window. Old fashioned window and lamp shade. Main Street is just the
highway slowed down a little, you take your life into your hands
crossing it by daylight, but at night, you hardly see a soul. Somebody
walking down to use the phone booth at the general store maybe.
Sometimes I see a young woman carrying a basket of laundry through the
darkness, going down to the Laundromat. I keep thinking she should be
carrying the basket balanced on her head.

I use to see those old Chinese women in the Chinatowns I knew, the old
wobblers whose feet had been bound. I’d get this lurching feeling in my
gut. There’s a lot of that sensation here on the edge of the wilderness,
what’s left of it, what passes for it in brochures. Tonight I walked
down the street to the post office. It’s a bright cube bunker of a
place, humming with venting and drives even in the darkness, closed. It
doubles as a catalogue order office. Modern and efficient and busy.
There’s a money machine.

Across the street on the porch of a big white house sat the children
from To Kill a Mockingbird, with a spectral Boo Radley next door in dark
green coveralls from Mark’s Work Warehouse behind vines on his daddy’s
porch. Out where Bill lives It’s still a Carson McCullers theme park on
out on the side roads in places, at least you can picture it as you’re
bouncing fast by in the truck.

The pub, the general store, the post office, the diner, the library. And
the many little churches, what finely drawn novels are those? The bells
ring at noon and at dusk from the Catholic Church across the valley.

They say on the radio that scientists have broken the speed of light.
No, surely. I just hope they can fix it now. A charming scientist interviewed
assures us we cannot build a time machine. I shall plug away nevertheless in the garden and at
the picture making here. But there still isn’t time enough in the day.

….a dream… Someone whose major goal in life is to get his paint to
look like it spilled in exactly the right spot might be useful with an
icing bag.

He could live in this apartment that’s like a still-life an agoraphobic
painted and he could work in a nearby cafe, most content alone in the
kitchen after everyone is gone when all must be set in readiness for
tomorrow’s incoming trendy diners and their trendy fucking hysterical
self diagnosed food allergies they read about in the lifestyles section. All
the implications of his solitude and his readying for those seekers of
sustenance and sensation to whom he will never have to speak. A good
heavy steel door a waitress could bump open with her hip. A willingness
to work late shifts. He would try to make work easier for her and she
would call him Little Rock and he would court her without much desire, but
with a fondness for the type, a mutual recognition with one eyelid
drooped each as to the reasons for occasional disappearances.

You can almost hear the psychological doors slamming behind him. The
quiet ambient music from Paris tinkling wet-sounding electronic
arpeggios in the morning while he readies his bath, checks his mailing
lists for anything interesting, wonders where his own are and whether
they exist.

I’m writing for the blog tonight so forgive me if I pump up the
verbiage. I was living a bit without thinking of writing anything down.
I got lost in the hood passion play, pecking order, ran my hand along a
picket fence, behind which I heard on my way to the quick check past the
properly compact and abundant clematis the sawing of a child’s violin at
music lessons. Or strolled with the Jungian on a moonlit night past the
house where the hot tub cowboys listen to Clint Black in the steam and
the smoke of the barbecue on the edge of the leg stirred waters. Or I
walked by myself up by the fairgrounds just as it was years ago, where
an early midway truck was already parked seeming more abandoned than
promising up against the pressed tin, exactly moon colored, side of the
horse-barn. Which is all very well and good. It ain’t Iraq.

Over in the parking lot at the body shop where I cross to get to
Macdonald’s I might catch a whiff of marijuana or see somebody huddled
on a pipe, and occasionally just to be a criminal too I sneak something
into the garbage that I shouldn’t on garbage night. If I remember.
There’s a house across the street where people come and go on weekends,
a different bunch, a changeover every little while, which is a little
strange, but always they’re quiet if oblivious. One time it was a bunch
of goth kids all in black and cheap silver but they grew beautifully
absorbed in plain tackle football down in the little memorial park.

Old Van Gogh with his ticker-tape of letters to Theo had the curse of
gab. Think what else he could have accomplished in the time he took to
write those letters. He could have gotten a day job, hell, they were his
day job. I picture mule trains of letters into Paris from less fortunate
post impressionists who’d taken to the roads and got stranded.They’d be
all exuberant about the light and simple accommodation at first (and the
local folk art is awful) but a little less enthusiastic after the
weather turned cold. The Mistral. All caught up in the loss and gain
that come with beauty.

I must sleep. My spell check’s a mass of letter reversals.

You travel well and safely. My thoughts are with you. Get more sun. I’m
hardly one to talk cooped up here in the hall and colouring all night,
but It is good for the bones. Is the sun.

Autumn coming. Hunting season. Restlessness. Tim, my brother calls it
buck fever and he says you get it even if you don’t hunt, mebbe worse if
you don’t than if you do.

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Week Four

Little slow to settle after the show for sure. I’ve had half a mind to
head right back to the big smoke, it was so good walking around in the
city all night, but I’m going to start in again here tonight on that
painting of the burly white man standing in a hotel pool lost in his own
considerations on an island. There’s that little bit of time that’s like
easing into cold water before I’m back into a painting. Just have to get
into the water around his body. All this hot and somehow embargoed july
every time I stood in the pool I thought of that picture. All winter It
was just leaning in the corner, a painting of an empty pool there with a
strip of vivid folding chairs in primary colours in oil across the top
of it . Alan wondered if I’d ever get to it, why I didn’t just dive
right in, cut loose, be free, and Gail told me what I should put in the
pool, what’d sell and I never said are you talking a commission or just
telling me what to paint. Billy minded his manners. I got up on the
second of august and painted you in. I been thinking of this painting
all along as a sort of reply to that one he did of Franny standing in
Indian River.

Grandma used to tuck in our t shirts and pull up our sox for us (lift
you right off the gorund) and pat us on the asses and say go on with you
then. And off we’d go, with that ease of leaving only childhood knows.
Now the picture is coming together nicely, is the focus of the room.
There you go, a man in a pool. Lighten the shoulders a bit in the sun. A
little crude at times, some of those lines. And there were a couple
places where I could have shown a little less finesse.

That old lady on the oxygen tank down the street must have died… her
polyester coloured petunias are all lolling in long dry grass and the
pottery birds, collected out of long ago tea-bag boxes, look like they
could use a dusting on her grey window sills. The son’s let the garden
go but he still smokes outside in the afternoon under the car port in
the shade. I see him when I walk to the quik chek and we nod at precis
of one another’s histories, at as much simple informative gossip carries a
few hundred yards up a dirt street.

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~ by Rocky Green on September 27, 2007.

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